National franchise Dogtopia opens new doggie daycare in Evanston


Photo courtesy of Sarah Lewis

Two of Dogtopia’s furry friends enjoying the playroom. All playrooms are separated by dog size and temperament.

Isabelle Butera, Reporter

Dogs are pulling at their leashes to get inside Evanston’s newest doggie daycare, Dogtopia,  just one week after its soft opening.

Dogtopia is a national pet care company, offering daycare, overnight boarding and grooming at over 170 stores in the U.S. and Canada. The 900 Clark St. Evanston location, owned by Sarah Lewis, held its soft opening on Oct. 4 and will host a grand opening Friday.

“We’ve really seen a transformation in the dogs,” Lewis said. ”This is a new place, it’s a new experience, especially for dogs that haven’t gone to daycare before. But now we’re seeing dogs that don’t want to leave.” 

Lewis, who previously worked as a CPA tax accountant, said she didn’t expect to work in animal care. That changed after she and her husband welcomed a new puppy named Murphy into their household in California. 

She realized how much impact her dog could have on other people’s lives, and was inspired by it, she said. 

“We ended up taking Murphy to a Dogtopia franchise there and I was just so impressed with the canine coaches: their level of training, their level of care, and the safety they practiced,” Lewis said.

All playrooms are climate controlled with Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning systems circulating air every 10 seconds, Lewis said. The rooms are cleaned twice a day with a custom-made pet-friendly cleaning solution. 

Trained canine coaches ease each new dog into the daycare experience, Lewis said. Dogtopia staff conduct a meet-and-greet with each new pet, which includes a short health check, a nose-to-tail assessment to identify how the dog reacts to touch and slow introductions to other dogs. 

Loyola University Chicago senior Sara Morano, who began working at Dogtopia last month, said she took the job because she misses her dog at home.

“This just seemed like a dream job, to just be around dogs and play with them,” Morano said. ”The most fun (is) seeing dogs become best friends with each other.” 

At daycare, dogs spend the mornings with each other in playrooms separated by size and temperament. Then, they take a two-hour rest in their crates for lunch, before continuing to play until their parents come to pick them up. 

Front desk coordinator Elizabeth Tokarczyk applied to work at Dogtopia since she could bring her dog Wilson to work. Dogtopia impressed her because of its commitment to clients, she said. 

Pet parents can check in on their dogs through live webcams in each of the playrooms, and all staff undergo comprehensive training.

“I love that you have to do 30 hours of training before you ever walk in this building,” Tokarczyck said, “Even just as the front desk, even though I’m not in a room every day as like a canine coach, I still have to go through the same training as they do.” 

After weeks of training and almost two years of build-up, Lewis is excited for Dogtopia to hold its grand opening on Friday.  

Beyond the hours of training for staff, Lewis said a lot of work has gone into the business. 

“There were times when I didn’t know if it was going to actually happen,” Lewis said. “But seeing everything come together with a store, and seeing our pet parents just being so grateful and thankful and these happy dogs, it’s totally worth it.” 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @isabelle_butera

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