Becoming part of Manayunk’s newest four-legged social club has one rule: Must love dogs.

By Megan Douress

Photography By Alexa Nahas Photography (alexanahas.com)

There’s never a dull moment at Scallywags Dog Daycare. On weekdays from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. anyone who enters 4367 Cresson Street is greeted by a very enthusiastic “pack.”

“Imagine what happens when someone rings your doorbell at home,” said co-owner, Lauren Bockmeyer. “Now, imagine having 30 dogs!”

Business partners Lauren and Jessica Rabenstine have been operating Manayunk’s only dog daycare since January 2018. The idea of this business venture was somewhat of a joke a few years ago.

While they both grew up as pet-lovers, Lauren started her career working at a dog daycare while studying finance, and Jessica was a Pre-Veterinary Medicine major. As fate would have it, both transferred to Delaware Valley University to study Small Animal Sciences and wound up as veterinary technicians at Harleysville Veterinary Hospital.

The two became close friends after working side-by-side for many years. After eight years in veterinary medicine, they decided to part ways with the medical aspect of dogs and thought about opening their own business.

“We were both on the verge of wanting to do something else,” Lauren said. “We loved our jobs, but we wanted to do our own thing. We thought a doggy daycare in Manayunk would be great because it’s something that wasn’t here.”

Although Lauren had experience in the day-to-day operations of a dog daycare, the two former veterinary technicians faced many obstacles when it came to actually opening their own business. From zoning and neighborhood approval to building and electrical permits, the two business owners often contemplated whether they should move forward with their plan.

“We weren’t sure it was going to work, but we kept pushing through,” Jessica said.

“We were always freaking out at opposite times, which is very helpful!” Lauren added, laughing.

With some encouraging words from Lauren’s dad, who is also a small business owner, Lauren and Jessica moved forward with their business plan to make their dream come true. The two new business owners took over the lease of their building in March of 2017, conducted meet-and-greets with potential clients at the end of the year, and officially opened for business in January of 2018.

Their business plan was simple — provide a more regulated, safe place for people to bring their dogs all day long. It’s a pretty popular idea, but in order to spend a day at Scallywags Dog Daycare, you have to follow one simple rule: get along with other dogs.

As with anything, word traveled fast among Manayunk’s dog owners — especially those who hang out at the Pretzel Park Dog Run.

Nearly a year after opening, Lauren and Jessica still find themselves taking in new clients multiple times a week. In order to become a client of Scallywags Dog Daycare, pet owners are asked a few simple questions through their online registration, including “Has your dog been to daycare before?” and “How is your dog around other dogs?” Updated vaccine records are required as well. Once your dog passes the questionnaire, your furry friend is invited to come in for a evaluation day.

“We bring them in when we first open at 7 a.m. so they’re one of the first dogs there,” Jessica explained. “We watch how they greet other dogs and make sure they aren’t showing any signs of aggression or other potential behavior problems.”

“Even if they’re not showing common signs of aggression, if a dog can’t read social cues from another dog, that’s a problem, too,” Lauren added. “If a dog is too heavy-footed and they don’t understand that other dogs don’t want to play like that, it can become an issue. But we have a great group of dogs.”

And while playing with dogs all day seems like the ideal job, Lauren and Jessica describe themselves more as “referees.” Try watching Scallywags Dog Daycare’s Instagram stories with your morning coffee if you need proof.

“Mornings are crazy!” Lauren laughed. “They’re just very hyper and have the ‘zoomies,’ and run around like nutballs.”

“They’re like little kids!” she added. “But it’s great because we have a lot of repeaters and they like us and know us. When we say their name, they’ll perk up and stop doing whatever it is they’re doing, or they’ll look at us when they’re about to do something bad like, ‘Are they watching me?’”

When asked if Scallywags Dog Daycare is structured like a typical daycare, Jessica answered with a laugh, “We do have times where we wish they would settle down and take a nap but trying to make 30 dogs lay down is not an easy task, to say the least!”

Running a dog daycare sounds like a dream job, and there are many perks that come with it. According to Jessica, she loves being able to work with her best friend every day.

“We talked about it a lot – that this is something you can’t do with just anybody,” she explained.

Along with working with her business partner, she also loves the comradery of the other Manayunk business owners, who they often seek out for advice.

“They’re so welcoming,” Lauren said. “It’s nice to get feedback and talk about their experiences of having a business here. There really is no other place I would want to do this.”

Together, Lauren and Jessica agree their clients are truly the best part about owning and operating Scallywags Dog Daycare in Manayunk — both the two and four-legged kinds.

“We threw a yappy hour recently and it was a huge success,” Jessica said. “We loved seeing our clients socialize together and make connections because of the love they have for their dogs.”

“When we walk down the street and one of our dogs sees us, they go crazy!” Lauren added. “That makes us feel great. It’s nice to provide this service and the community is very appreciative.”

While Scallywags Dog Daycare has been a success from the start, Lauren and Jessica hinted at big plans for the future.
“We only want to get better, that’s for sure,” Lauren said.

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