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Archive for Monday, January 11, 2010

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Resort on the range: Farmstead converted to unique pet-care site

January 11, 2010

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Loretta Hiatt pets one of the “guests” at Homestead Pet Resort north of Lawrence, which she founded in 2008. Find more information about Homestead Pet Resort at www.homesteadpetresort.com.

Loretta Hiatt pets one of the “guests” at Homestead Pet Resort north of Lawrence, which she founded in 2008. Find more information about Homestead Pet Resort at www.homesteadpetresort.com.

Dogs await feeding time at the Homestead Pet Resort. The resort includes a 6,000-square-foot barn that has five large rooms for guest dogs to stay.

Dogs await feeding time at the Homestead Pet Resort. The resort includes a 6,000-square-foot barn that has five large rooms for guest dogs to stay.

Loretta Hiatt is mobbed by dogs  during play time at Homestead.

Loretta Hiatt is mobbed by dogs during play time at Homestead.

On the street

Who takes care of your pets while you’re on vacation?

My friend. He takes care of my two turtles, two snakes, a dog and a cat.

More responses

By most definitions, Homestead Pet Resort is out in the middle of nowhere. About an hour north of Lawrence —east of Holton and southwest of Atchison — Loretta Hiatt is hoping to build something big on land that’s been in her family for more than 120 years.

“I want to be a four-star resort for pets,” Hiatt says.

Homestead Pet Resort was founded two years ago by Hiatt, whose family has farmed the land near the locale for more than a century. It was the result of a decade of pondering how to preserve the farmstead she left in 1976 when she moved to Colorado

“It’s been in the family since the 1890s,” she says. “That’s a long time.”

So she knocked down the old barn — it was too dilapidated to save — and built a new 6,000-square-foot facility to house her pet resort. The shape of the new facility mimics what was there before in the old barn.

Meanwhile, the nearby, original farmhouse still serves as an outreach site for adults with disabilities involved in Bittersweet Homestead Inc., a companion organization also founded by Hiatt. Some of the program’s participants occasionally go to Homestead Pet Resort to care for the animals.

Between the two organizations, Hiatt says, “I feel like I have preserved a farmstead.”

Hiatt still spends much of her time in Colorado. But she comes back often to check on her operation.

The large barn, with natural light flowing in on all sides, includes five large rooms with heated floors to house dogs, complete with furniture purchased from thrift stores. A kennel kitchen, grooming area and office complete the first floor, with storage space and a cat area on the second floor.

Outside, two large dog play areas are fenced in. There are plans for adding a larger play area and swimming pond this summer.

Hiatt figures this facility meets four-star resort status for several reasons:

  • Staff is on duty 24/7 to care for pets.
  • Dogs can go outside as they please to run, instead of going out on a leash a few times a day.
  • A van will provide transportation for out-of-town guests — for a fee, of course.
  • On-site grooming services help dogs look their best when it’s time to go home.

“We think we offer something different,” Hiatt says. “But we’re not for everybody.”

Rates range from $15 to $30 per night.

The unique farm setting has been enough to convince Lawrence resident Mary Morningstar to send her 3-year-old golden retriever mix, Smokey, to “vacation” at Homestead three times.

At first, she admits, she was nervous about the dogs interacting with one another at the facility. But after Smokey spent a week there, Morningstar was convinced it was a good experience.

“The next time we took him there, he walked right up to the door wagging his tail, which meant to me that he was comfortable there,” Morningstar says.

Morningstar, a professor of special education at Kansas University, says it’s also important to her that people with disabilities volunteer at Homestead Pet Resort.

“The fact that the owners of Homestead have developed this partnership and gone above and beyond the norm to include individuals with disabilities in the day-to-day operations of the kennel indicates their commitment to others,” Morningstar says. “It’s a situation that, in some ways, is better than using a therapy dog with individuals with disabilities — because not only do the dogs help the individuals with disabilities, but the individuals also make a contribution to the daily operations of Homestead by playing and exercising the dogs.”

It’s a relationship that helps complete the entire experience at Homestead, says Tanya Rokey, the resort’s director. But ultimately, she thinks the farm experience will help any dog — or cat — feel at home when pet owners come to pick up their furry loved ones.

“I want them to know their dog had a blast,” Rokey says, “that they made other doggie friends and were able to run and play in the rooms and have a great vacation as well.”

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