June 2010

Home Away From Home - SOUTHPAW PET RESORT Is More Than A Kennel

Author: Michele Roldán-Shaw | Photographer: Photography By Anne

Hilton Head is a world-class resort environment with plenty of business catering to the luxury-loving human. So what about an indulged dog? Is cell-block row really satisfactory when it comes time to board that precious pet?

This was the question raised by Brecken and Stuart Campagna, proprietors of Southpaw Pet Resort and pioneers in well-appointed canine comfort. After two-and-a-half years running Pet Pals, a pet-sitting company they founded and later sold, the Campagnas decided to shift their focus a bit and enter the realm of boarding. As far as an opulent kennel was concerned, they felt certain of one thing: If you build it, they will come.

“When we had Pet Pals, our clients would tell us stories about kennels they used to use, or why they didn’t use kennels anymore,” said Brecken, who is originally from Johnston, South Carolina. “Then they’d tell us how they wished a kennel could be. So we thought about all those ideas during the two years we were planning Southpaw. It’s exciting to see the looks on people’s faces when they see it and to hear them say, ‘This is perfect; this is exactly what we wanted.’”

The rooms at Southpaw are private suites, ensuring that the animals have no physical or visual contact with their neighbors. This greatly reduces the stress associated with the typical kennel environment. With the flick of a switch, a small automated door rolls up so the dogs can amble out into their own private “lawn,” a bit of synthetic turf partially covered for shade. These individual outdoor yards are completely separate from other units. When it comes time for social interaction, dogs can be released into a central play area, where they are free to run and tear up as much as their hearts desire—under adult supervision, of course.

Each room is furnished with a miniature wrought-iron bed—complete with tiny mattress and fleece throw blanket—a chandelier and a flat-screen TV. Stimulating scenes from the Animal Planet flash across the monitors (unless owners request specific channels, which believe it or not, some do), but the sound is off. Instead, classical music is piped into all the rooms. And not just any classical music, mind you, but a compilation of pieces produced specifically for dogs and designed to soothe them.

“We’ve had a lot of people take tours and ask, ‘Can we come stay?’” says Brecken, who retains a sense of humor despite the serious dedication she brings to the business.

“We’re not being fancy just to be fancy,” Stuart insists. “We don’t expect the dogs to actually sit down and watch the TV shows; that’s not what they’re there for. It’s because when a lot of people come home from work, the first thing they do is plop down on the couch and turn on the TV to relax. There have been studies done to show that dogs take their cues from that—if you’re relaxed, they’re relaxed.”

Providing a comfortable atmosphere similar to home is what Southpaw is all about. To that end, they are willing to go to great lengths to meet the individual needs of each pet, and the small size of their facility allows them to do this. (There are fourteen suites, which house single dogs or multiples from the same family.) So when a woman brought in distilled water for her dog and requested it be served with ice, this was gladly done. The rescued pit bull that didn’t do well with other dogs was given his own personal playtime in the big yard, and the blind diabetic dog was lovingly administered to with shots twice a day. Even needy lapdogs are accommodated; at the time of this interview, Brecken was wearing a shoulder pouch containing a little pooch that barked all day if she wasn’t held.

“When you bring your pet in here for the first time, they don’t know where they are,” said Stuart. “We’ll go in their room and sit down with them so they can acclimate, not only to their environment, but to us. The idea is to let them know that we aren’t a threat, and they’re in an okay place.”

Southpaw also boasts a training and agility center, where independent dog-trainer Alison Armao works her wonders—everything from basic obedience to therapy dog training, or preparing dogs for agility trials. Classes and private sessions are available, whether or not the dog is actually boarding. And all this is just the beginning. Phase II of the project will see Southpaw expanding its facilities to include larger boarding suites, sixteen individually ventilated “cat condos,” complete with screened-in porch, grooming services and a special wading pool for the dogs. They will also be adding a hydrotherapy rehabilitation tank—a 300-gallon tank with heated water, resistance jets and an underwater treadmill. Guided by the expert hand of veterinary surgeon Dr. Kathy Wander, dogs will go through low-impact training regimens wherein they run the treadmill with their legs and torso partially submerged in water.

“It’s a great tool to help keep them limber and comfortable later in life,” said Stuart. “It’s very effective for weight loss, and it’s also great for arthritis or post-op rehabilitation.”

Whether Brecken and Stuart are lending their training center to a dog that will one day assist the blind, or flipping to CNN so one of their canine charges can listen to the evening news report like it always does, the two animal lovers get a kick out of
their job.

“This is definitely our calling,” said Stuart, of all the hard work and thoughtful details that goes into Southpaw. “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

For boarding information call 843.342.7200 or visit www.southpawpetresort.com

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