Sol Dog Lodge, a local nonprofit offering boarding, training, and day camp for dogs, plans to open a new location in Marana by the end of the year that will allow the organization to better fulfill is secondary mission of strengthening the bond between humans and pets.
Sol Dog Lodge's community programs—Hearts Together, Hearts at Ease, and Heartfelt Hounds—are the nonprofit portion of Sol Dog Lodge. Hearts Together works with rescues and foster homes to train and board hard-to-home dogs. Hearts at Ease provides shelter for dogs whose owners are in a temporary crisis, like hospital patients, victims of domestic violence, or people in senior care. Heartfelt Hounds matches people with disabilities to service dogs.
"We have calls every day," said Sol Dog Lodge Director Shelley Harris. "The challenge is that in the space we're in now, we can't do any more, we're full. In the new place in Marana, we'll be able to expand what we do three-fold."
The current location for Sol Dog Lodge is on Prince Road, but the new location will be on more than four acres in Marana, just east of Interstate 10. They are still raising funds to support the efforts to start construction on the new space. They hope to open by October, with a hard deadline for opening by the end of the year.
The first thing to be built will be new kennel space for day camp, boarding, and training. There will also be retail space, a veterinary clinic, a conference center, and residence spaces. The residence spaces will house veterans who are having dogs trained to be their service animals. They can stay in the casitas for a few weeks to work with their dogs during the training period.
"We'll have more space for those emergencies when they occur to be able to support those families," Harris said. She says Sol Dog Lodge is so burdened that they have demand for at least 60 kennels if available. "The piece that all of us are looking forward to is being able to respond to calls that are already coming in, from people who need someone to take care of their dog tomorrow."
The vision of Sol Dog Lodge to have community programs developed from a partnership with Arizona Greyhound Rescue Foundation. Four of the members of Sol Dog Lodge served on the board for AGRF, and decided they needed a plan to support all dogs who needed a home, not just greyhounds.
Harris said Sol Dog Lodge builds bonds between dogs and people by developing specialty programs and services to keep dogs in their homes and out of overburdened shelters.
Harris recalled one man who adopted a 65-pound dog from a shelter. The dog was territorial—protective of food, toys, and its space, trying to bite anyone it felt threatened by. The owner brought his dog to Sol Dog Lodge trainers, who rehabilitated his dog over the course of two weeks.
"Our trainers were able to change his disposition so that the dog felt comfortable and confident enough to be able to go out in public. The dog now goes everywhere with him," Harris said.
Their everyday services, providing day camp, boarding, and training are geared towards reinforcing good behavior and ensuring positive human-to-dog interactions. Each experience at Sol Dog Lodge is curated and tailored to the individual dog's needs.
When dogs behave well in a pack, they can play with other dogs. If they're excessively energetic, they can run on the dog treadmill or play in the pool. If they need extra intellectual stimulation, there are puzzle toys for them to play with. If they need to go outside often, the staff at Sol Dog Lodge makes sure they get enough time out in the enclosure. Everything is about the dog.
The training services are a great resource for the owners, too, according to Harris. A lot of calls Sol Dog Lodge receives are about dogs needing basic obedience skills.
"If we can get the dog trained, get the person trained, and make them more confident, we want the dogs to stay home," Harris says. "We educate the owners to learn more dog language and to be able to help train the dog, so the dog wants to do what you want them to do. Not just respond to you yanking its chain or wanting treats."
Sol Dog Lodge is hosting open houses to share goals with the community. The first open house will be 3 to 4 p.m. Sunday, June 30, at 1895 W. Prince Road. Donations for the new location can be made on the Sol Dog Lodge website: soldoglodge.com.