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Dog Days of Birmingham
112 18th Street North, Birmingham (205) 458-9364
If you are walking downtown and hear the barking of dogs echoing from the rooftops you have not morphed into a Disney hound movie. You are merely passing in front of the coolest place for dogs in the city of Birmingham. Dog Days is celebrating their two year anniversary on September 15.
Jimmy and Sue Johnson created Dog Days and their loft townhouse after his job was cut from a middle management software company in 2009. He researched a number of job options but after spending Halloween downtown and getting to know some of the people who call the city center home, he and his wife began looking for real estate there. They decided to incorporate their love of animals into the space they would come to call home.
“We visited with the owners of the Hunter Furniture Store just as they were planning to retire. My wife and I toured the building one afternoon the Hunters and I made a deal on a handshake. With the help of ONB (Operation New Birmingham) we were able to secure a loan for two years with a great rate,” Jimmy said. “It looks like now we are going to need to expand.”
Michael Gibson, AIA with Appleseed Workshop was hired to create the unique facility that allows the dogs to run freely in pods to play with their friends while their owners are working. They won an AIA award for the design.
For the more laid back dog, there are a number of private rooms available with numerous themes that include an Alabama den, Auburn den, Princess room, and a Jungle themed room.
On the rooftop they mingle with new found friends and sniff about running across toy slides and into the doggie bone pool while being watched by a resident caretaker. Some people who live in the area choose to bring their pet for half a day so they can get some social interaction.
Dog Days offers boarding, daycare as well as grooming. The groomer, Terry Reliford has twenty years of experience. Dog Days will soon offer training services as well.
“We upload dozens of photos to our Facebook page throughout the day so owners can see what their pets have been up to. We have so many who think of their pets as a part of the family. Birmingham dog owners are a tight community, but Birmingham owners are not our only customers,” he explained. “We have people who drop their pets on their way through to the beach from Nashville or from Huntsville. In fact, 70% of our clients come from the suburbs. We even have people who fly out of Birmingham and drop them off on their way to the airport from Tuscaloosa and Alabaster.”
Dog Days tenants must be spayed or neutered, and be up to date on all shots. They are also screened for temperament.
“We do some social screening on each dog that comes in. We introduce them to a few dogs one at a time to see how they react. We have only had a few we were unable to integrate into the upstairs play area and only a couple we had to send home because they became territorial after being here for a while.”
The Dog Days staff has a number of cameras and monitors in each space and at night the Johnsons have security screens where they can see the dogs from their home loft area on a separate floor, just in case.
Dog Days hosts pets whose owners work at UAB, Regions, Alabama Power and a number of law firms in the downtown area. Children’s Hospital is nearby as well as UAB. Patients who require extended treatments are offered a 20% discount if they have been in the hospital for two weeks or more.
“A recent client was a gentleman from Florida who had received a liver transplant. He would bring his dogs here while he was receiving treatment so they didn’t have to stay behind,” Jimmy explained.
The Johnsons are personally involved in the pet community as well as other organizations. Sue serves as CEO of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Greater Birmingham. http://www.bbbsbhm.org
The offices are located across the street from Hand in Paw. www.handinpaw.org
The two groups collaborate to place children and pets together through programs such as Pawsitive Living.
“We are very involved in supporting the Humane Society and have had floats in the Do Dah Day Parade since we opened. Together with Birmingham Animal Control and Bama Bully Rescue we will be sponsoring a huge event on October 20 in our parking lot next door called Pup O Ween with costume parades for the animals and treats especially for them,” Jimmy said. “We are also sponsoring Paws For A Cause Fun Run and Pet Walk in Hoover on September 15. www.theanimalleagueofbirmingham.com
The Johnsons have loved the downtown living experience and have a number of friends who live nearby.
“We never owned a bicycle the entire time we were married. We now hop on bikes and ride two blocks away to Railroad Park or to a restaurant nearby. We know of a few Great Danes who live in apartments nearby. They adapt to condo living. Whether a dog lives in the suburbs with a large yard or whether in a kennel inside, they all need interaction and stimulus,” he explained. “A dog in a yard will lie around all day until the owner comes and then that is when he wants to play. The dog who has been inside lies around too and needs to be walked. Here the dogs are interacting all day long so they can lounge about with their owners when the day is over. It is a win-win.”
If you are downtown and want to drop in or peek in the window you will find dogs of all sizes and breeds just doing their thing.
The owners take great pride in the quality of care the animals receive and each dog gets special attention, as noted by the billboard in the front entrance with the names of “Today’s Birthdays”. They just happen to feature doggie birthday parties for the whole family. A recent party was held on the rooftop with a dozen people and half a dozen of the dog’s friends. The birthday fee includes cake and ice cream as well as serving bowls for the dogs. The people are welcome to bring their own. After all, this place is all about the dogs!
For more information go to their website at www.dogdaysofbirmingham.com
Story and Photos by Allison Puccetti Adams