From towering Great Danes to tiny Chihuahuas, dogs of all shapes and sizes are playing the day away at a local dog daycare.
All About Paws hosts up to 60 dogs a day at its facility off Mo. 32, just west of Bolivar. All dogs are welcome to come and swim, play and interact with other dogs.
Owner Darwina Stewart opened the business in October 2017, after she and her husband, veterinarian Dr. Wendell Stewart, retired from running Animal Care Clinic of Bolivar for 20 years.
The facility entertains dogs for the day and also offers boarding and grooming services.
“We have a cage-free daycare and home-like environment boarding, and apparently the community needed it because it’s been overwhelmingly popular,” Darwina Stewart said.
The daycare features many activities for the dogs, including pools to combat the summer heat. Dogs boarded at the facility have rooms with beds and doors that lead outside. The rooms, or “little cabins” as described by Stewart, are made of tempered glass instead of caged metal.
The staff that runs All About Paws is “100% family,” Stewart said.
“My mother is the groomer,” she explained. “My two daughters are assistant managers. I have three grandchildren, two work here full-time and one part-time.”
All About Paws also organizes fundraisers for national animal welfare groups. They have partnered with GiGi’s Creations, A Kinder World and other welfare organizations by selling their products in the front lobby. All profits made on the products go to the groups.
Stewart noted how retirement didn’t last long for her before she began the process of opening All About Paws.
“My husband had just retired and sold the vet clinic we had. After four days of being at the beach, I started questioning waking up everyday without a purpose,” she said.
After the daycare opened its doors, pet parents started bringing in their furry friends, some of them five to six times a week.
All About Paws regular Connie Payne has been bringing her goldendoodle Libby to daycare at least five days a week for the past year while she’s out of town at work.
“My office is in Springfield, and I work in 21 counties so I travel a lot,” Payne said. “At All About Paws, I don’t have to worry about her being taken care of, whereas at home, anything could happen.”
Payne emphasized how Libby is a social animal and All About Paws allows her to interact and play with other dogs. Libby loves daycare and looks forward to it every morning, Payne said.
“It wasn’t my plan to bring her everyday when I first brought her here, but she loves it so much, I couldn’t deny her from coming,” she said. “She knows when it’s time to come in the morning. When I put her leash on her, she’ll put the leash in her mouth and lead me to the door.”
Another daily regular, Laurie Gilchrist, has the same experience with her dog.
“When I keep her at home on the weekends, she wants to go get in the car because she wants to come here,” Gilchrist said.
She has been bringing her rescue dog Sooner, a Labrador retriever and Louisiana leopard Catahoula mix, to All About Paws on a daily basis for over a year.
“When I got (Sooner), I didn’t know how I was going to keep her because I don’t have any place to take her during the day, and I work in Springfield,” Gilchrist said. “Then, someone told me about this place, and I brought her out here. It was a lifesaver because she could come here, and I didn’t have to worry about her being in a kennel all day."
Stewart noted that Sooner has attended All About Paws daycare for 331 days out of the around 500 days they’ve been open.
If pet parents worry about their dogs throughout the day, they can check up on their pets by following All About Paws’ daily Facebook updates.
“When I’m at work and I want to see what’s going on here, I look (All About Paws) up on Facebook and see what pictures they’ve got posted,” Gilchrist said. “Usually, I see Sooner and I’m like, ‘Oh, she’s doing fine.’”
Canine social hour
While at All About Paws, dogs can swim, play fetch, run and play with other dogs. Even winter weather won’t stop the pups from getting their playtime.
“(In the winter) the employees put on coveralls, gloves and boots and go outside with the ones who want to play outside,” Darwina Stewart said. Dogs who aren’t fans of cold weather can play indoors.
Stewart said her favorite part about running All About Paws is “proving to people that dogs love to socialize.”
“It’s the idea that dogs, since they are a pack animal, are also a social animal,” she said, adding All About Paws allows pet parents to “start dogs out at socializing at a young age.”
The socialization between dogs is one of the main reasons why pets come back day after day, Payne said.
“It gives the dogs socialization, and they’re not at home all by themselves all day long. They love it,” she said.
Gilchrist agreed and mentioned how comfortable Sooner has become at All About Paws.
“Sooner thinks this is her second home,” she said.