Because Michelle Davis has a passion for dogs, her dog-boarding service in Saugerties, Bed & Biscuit, isn’t so much a business as a hobby. She doesn’t board more than five dogs at a time, and she cares for them in her home, letting the pooches run around and play in her fenced-in yard. At night, each dog gets a massage and a cookie, and if its coat or bed is getting a little funky, she’ll throw it in the laundry. She’s a holistic dog-boarder: There are no chemicals on the lawn or in the house (“I use Grandma’s ingredients,” i.e. vinegar), and she can accommodate whatever diet the owner wants: canned, raw, cooked or organic. The owner provides the food, but she’ll sprinkle a little pecorino cheese on top.
Because the dogs have to be well-socialized to fit in, she doesn’t take every canine that’s brought to her. In fact, Bed & Biscuit sounds a bit like a rather exclusive doggy resort. Certainly, you can leave your dog here without guilt, knowing that it will be as comfortable and safe as at home – with a bunch of pals to play with, to boot.
So who gets in? “I don’t go by the breed; I go by temperament,” Davis said, noting that her fees are on a sliding scale. “The dog has to be reliable. I know what questions to ask [the owner] and I listen between the lines.”
Davis said that as a child growing up in Brooklyn, she read every book in the public library about dogs; when she was an adult and finally got her first dog, it was a wolf hybrid. A dog trainer and behaviorist who became her best friend was a pivotal influence in teaching her more about dogs. She started her business as a way to provide a playmate for her pet.
“People tell me I’m a dog whisperer,” Davis said. She uses “calming signals” – blinking her eyes, turning her head and other gestures to which dogs relate – to cross the interspecies divide in communication. She’s not a fan of the techniques used by a certain celebrity “dog whisperer” who recently made an appearance in our area. “His approach is based on dominance, rather than on cooperation,” she said. “I prefer to get a dog to want to do something rather than force them.” Positive reinforcement, group coordination and lots of exercise: These are the keys to having a happy, well-behaved dog, she said.
To find out more about the Bed & Biscuit, call 246-6340 or log on to www.bednbiscuit.com.