Dolly and Cedar greeted each other in the normal doggie way. At Bow Chika Wow Town, a new indoor dog park located off Airport Road, sniffing, biting and scratching are all socially acceptable, at least for canines.
Bow Chika Wow Town, which inhabits an 8,700-square foot former factory and garage on Pavilion Avenue, was the brainchild of Alisa Paykos-Theurer.
Paykos-Theurer, a Westerly resident, moved back to the States from Japan in 2010 with her husband, Mark, who’s in the Navy. It was then that she began wondering why she couldn’t find an indoor facility to take her dogs and let them play; everywhere she went required enrollment in some sort of obedience or agility class.
Paykos-Theurer just wanted to let her dogs Cedar and Tigger play. It was especially important for Tigger to get exercise, since hyperthyroidism makes it difficult for her to maintain a healthy weight.
So, after searching and coming up empty, Paykos-Theurer decided to take matters into her own hands. She did some analysis of the business climate in various parts of Rhode Island and concluded Warwick would be a great place to open an indoor doggie park. She worked with Score.org, an online service that mentors entrepreneurs about sound business models. Her own knowledge of community development and public administration helped her plan for the business.
“My family thought I was a little crazy,” said Paykos-Theurer, who was a stay-at-home mom at the time.
But in March, after her father passed away, Paykos-Theurer was inspired to ignore her doubts and follow her instinct.
“I became more afraid not to do this than to give it a try and fail,” she said.
Paykos-Theurer is leasing the space with help from a partner and a military spouse bank loan. She said getting it off the ground came with challenges, but nothing she didn’t expect.
“I assumed there would be challenges, and there were,” she said. “But I said, if there’s a hoop, let’s work through it.”
Working through those hoops led Paykos-Theurer to where she is today, putting the finishing touches on her canine space. Bow Chika Wow Town will have its ribbon cutting this Saturday at 11 a.m. Paykos-Theurer said she doesn’t offer services like grooming because she wants to partner with other small businesses and entrepreneurs.
“It’s much more valuable in the long run than working against everyone already out there,” she said.
Paykos-Theurer is busy getting the word out that she is ready for business, which, in addition to providing a place to play, also offers overnights and day care for pooches. She said she’s had some overnights already, and people have dropped in to sign up for memberships.
Mike Oullette, a Warwick resident, brought his 8-month-old Dolly on Tuesday to check things out.
“This place is good,” he said, explaining he was looking for a new place to take Dolly to play. He said he planned to attend Saturday’s event and take things from there.
The fee for a day of play is $8; it’s $35 for a 5-day pass and $45 for unlimited days. There is a special area for puppies.
Paykos-Theurer said the space isn’t just for winter, when it’s cold and snowy; the space is air-conditioned during warmer weather. All dogs are required to be spayed, neutered and vaccinated, another assurance Bow Chika Wow Town offers.
The park currently has four staff members outfitted in white-and-black-striped referee shirts to keep pooches in line. There’s also a play area for kids.
Eventually, the park will be divided for small dogs and larger ones. There’s also an outdoor run for dogs who are trained to “do their business” outside.
But for those that aren’t, there’s a central wet-dry vacuum system, which uses a disinfectant spray to prevent germs and stop the smell.
Dolly and her new friends Tigger and Cedar all minded their manners, and there wasn’t any need for the wet-vac. In spite of all the doggie props, they were more interested in a single, lime-green tennis ball usually reserved for outdoor play. The dogs didn’t seem to notice that there was no grass or clouds and accepted halogen lamps and concrete.
For more info on Bow Chika Wow Town, located at 450 Pavilion Avenue, call 737-2900 or visit www.bowchikawowtown.com.