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Dog boarding: How to find joy in chaos

    Amy Fumetti’s life is filled with mud and dirt and dog hair and smiles and slobber.

    All kinds of chaos.

    It’s just what goes with running a dog boarding facility in Spokane.

    “It’s a good life,” she says. “Yeah, it’s really good.”

    To be surrounded by crazy, happy dogs 24/7? No doubt it’s the good life.

    trying to bribe two dogs with treats

    Starting a dog boarding business

    Amy and her husband own and operate Free Range Boarding, the ultimate vacation for your dog in Spokane. They offer doggie day care, overnight boarding, and board and train services.

    They have a gorgeous facility on their property in Spokane, a brand-new shop next to their home where Pepper the boxer and Meatball the American Staffordshire terrier reside.

    Free Range Boarding is modeled after an amazing farm they found in rural Virginia. While living in the Washington, D.C., area, the Fumettis needed a place to board their first dog as a married couple.

    They found the farm but ultimately couldn’t leave their boxer Hobbes there.

    “It’s not because she was naughty or anything but she had allergies to chemicals they use for cleaning,” Amy says. “They didn’t want to change their cleaning protocol, which is perfectly acceptable.”

    That started the adventure, the dream to own their own dog boarding facility with cleaning protocols friendly to all dogs.

    kisses from a Spokane Valley pitbull
    It didn’t work

    The business of dog boarding in Spokane

    For 11 years, Amy studied dogs and dog behavior, always keeping her dog boarding dream in her mind. She’d go to dog parks and volunteer at other dog boarding facilities to see how they worked.

    She learned the do’s and don’ts.

    Then she spent a full 18 months researching building design in Europe. She wanted her dog boarding business to be the most comfortable and safest space that a dog could know.

    When the Fumettis finally landed in Spokane and bought their property, she was more than ready.

    She had a set of guidelines on which to evaluate a dog for inclusion in her dog boarding facility.

    From the second a dog comes onto the property, the evaluation begins. Amy is paying attention to how the dog approaches the building and how quickly they’re willing to come inside.

    Meatball a Spokane Valley pitbull

    “We’re looking for balance in our dogs,” she says, noting all her staff is fully trained in dog behavior, too. “They don’t necessarily have to want to play with other dogs. They just have to be comfortable in the presence of other dogs.”

    She does a one-on-one check with the dog and then a controlled introduction to another dog. She watches for anxiety, food aggression, possessive behaviors – all the things that can trigger dogs to have a problem with each other.

    “Our priority is your dog’s safety,” she says. “We make sure the dog coming in feels very safe before they’re ever greeted by another dog.”

    “We don’t want any of our dogs to be uncomfortable. They play hard, so they have to be able to comfortably relax in their downtime, otherwise, it’s just not good for them. We want to make sure that they’re going to be happy and comfortable for their stay, and that it’s a safe place for them. We want them to want to be here.”

    A day at Free Range Boarding

    Adventure. Chaos. Naps. Snacks. Snuggles.

    Every day is full at Free Range Boarding. It starts at 7 a.m. with potty breaks, then playtime, breakfast and rest (Amy is very cognizant of bloat risks in her bigger dogs).

    The play area is a large fenced area next to the dog boarding facility that has “suites” (not kennels) built from floor to ceiling with sound-dampening insulation for everyone’s comfort.

    Then more play and more rest.

    Amy Fumetti with clients at her dog boarding facility in Valleyford
    Amy and some of her dogs at Free Range Boarding

    If a dog is more active, he can stay in the yard for a bit longer — always supervised.

    “We always play it by ear,” Amy says. “We tried having a planned schedule, you know with all the best intentions but it just never worked out. The dogs are happier that way.”

    With the chaos. Especially with the puppy groups.

    The happy kind of chaos that leaves Amy exhausted and fulfilled at the end of every day.

    Amy Fumetti and her boxer Pepper

    On the right track

    We find the dogs who lead us onto the paths we’re meant to follow.

    Hobbes’ memory continues to inspire Amy. A painting of her adorns the wall of Free Range’s welcome lobby.

    “She just was the best dog ever,” Amy says. “She loved everyone and everything and she was super easy going and just kind of sparked my love for dogs.”

    If it wasn’t for Hobbes, Amy might still be working in a corporate office pushing paper and being miserable.

    “She definitely changed my life,” Amy says. “I think for a lot of people who work in rescue, it happened that way, too. And the owners of pet boutiques and that kind of stuff, it’s one dog in particular that made them realize what they were supposed to do with their lives.”

    All around the circle

    My husband and I have traveled somewhere once together without Bella. It was an overnight trip to Tacoma to see AC/DC in concert (Brian Young’s last ever concert) and we left Bella in a friend’s care.

    It turned into a less than ideal experience but that’s another story for another day. #wompwomp

    If we had to leave Bella somewhere now, though, I hope to heck she’d pass the evaluations for Free Range. It’s an exquisite dog boarding facility and I know Amy would give my baby the best possible care.

    Because she has found the joy in dogpreneurship, something I sure can appreciate.

    I highlighted Amy’s dog boarding business for this week’s blog circle, the topic for which was photographer’s choice. I visited with Amy and did a quick portrait session with her and her own dogs.

    Pepper and Meatball were crazy and fun and slobbery and … Amy’s everything.

    And we found joy in the chaos.

    Now let’s head out on a journey of the world, seeing what my dog photographer friends are featuring.

    Start with Kylee Doyle of Kylee Doyle Photography, serving pet parents in the greater Sacramento area.

    When you get to the bottom of Kylee’s post, click the next link in the circle and so on until you find yourself back here.

    Right where you belong.


    Dogs. Adventure. Outdoors. These words set Angela's heart afire. Angela Schneider, an award-winning writer and dog photographer, documents the story of you and your dog and the adventures you take together. Your portraits will be a statement piece in your home, art that will make your friends and family beg to hear its story.

    10 thoughts on “Dog boarding: How to find joy in chaos”

    1. Sounds like a fantastic facility, right down to the cleaning protocol issue. If I lived close, I would definitely check it out. We don’t board our dogs as much anymore, but I can relate to needing a place you can trust so you can enjoy the reason you are leaving them in the first place, rather than worry.

    2. Wow, what an awesome business (and a super dedicated business owner)! I definitely wish I lived closer so I could take my dogs there – sounds like they would have a blast. And as always, gorgeous images!

    3. Wow – what a great story and it does look like the perfect place for a large number of dogs. Bad for me, I am pretty sure that Abby would fail the evaluation as when young she went to doggie daycare 1 day a week and eventually she kept going to ‘time out’ so I stopped taking her. She is happy with her kiddos, but not many others. I too hope that Bella could pass!!! Great inspiration for doing a blog post – maybe I will do something like this in the future when I have some time to get out there and visit businesses.

    4. I love everything about this post! The story, the happy photos and it makes me so happy to learn of a facility where everyone is educated in animal behavior. I hope she sets a new standard for the future of all facilities!

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