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Canine Nirvana

Rex's Place offers a cage-free environment for dogs to play and stay.

As a dog owner, I frequently experience pangs of guilt over not giving mine enough attention. Let me just describe him to you.

Jack’s a five-year-old yellow Labrador retriever, a hefty 100 pounds of pure muscle and mayhem packed into a furry (and frequently shedding) package.

The second my alarm clock goes off in the morning, Jack bounds onto my bed, slathers me with kisses and wrests one of my arms from underneath the covers so I might use it to rub his belly.

Jack's frequently mistaken for a mixed-breed, though we’ve got the papers from Thunder Labs in Wisconsin to prove he’s all Lab.

Jack’s a sweetheart, but he’s pure energy. Since our backyard isn’t large enough for running or fetching, Jack’s options for exercise tend toward walks and, when he’s in luck, a visit to Dog Beach. Unfortunately, our kids can’t partake in these activities unsupervised, as Jack’s strength and exuberance has proven dangerous for anyone who weighs less than him. Two years ago, I allowed my daughter to hold Jack’s leash on a walk.  When another dog down the block caught Jack’s eye, he bolted excitedly toward his new friend, dragging my daughter (who held Jack’s leash for dear life) down the sidewalk and across the grassy expanse of a condominium courtyard; that was the last time I ever let one of my kids walk the dog…and that makes me sad.

Jack’s the kind of dog who just needs to play and, after one-too-many sad looks from him lately, I gave Rex’s Place a call. I’d been hearing great things about the place from several people, but I struggled with the idea of $30/day to bring my dog to a “playcare” facility. What kind of lazy dog owner was I if I couldn’t walk my own dog?

But, my ankle injury put an end to that debate. I knew my dog needed exercise, and I knew I couldn’t give him as much as he needed, so I contacted Kathy Lichtenstein, the owner of Rex’s Place, and asked if I might check out the facility. She offers a one-day free trial for new clients, so I brought Jack over for a “test run”.

After his free trial, I’m officially hooked.

You'd think a doggie daycare might smell...well...doggie. Rex's Place doesn't. Maybe it's the zamboni-like machine they use every day to keep the place sparkling. Perhaps it's the fact that owner Kathy Lichtenstein is allergic to dogs and, therefore, maintains a spotless facility. I was blown away.

Jack had the best time, and the experience was totally worth the investment. When you bring your dog to , both you and your dog are greeted by name. The dogs roam among two spacious rooms (one for smaller and senior dogs, another for larger, more rambunctious ones. Guess where Jack went?).  Enthusiastic staff members play with the dogs, walk them five times a day, bring them to an outdoor play area one block away for some outside time, and, best of all, fill out a report card on your dog’s day. Sounds crazy and over-the-top, right? I thought so...until I received Jack's report card.

I learned my dog was “nice” and “outgoing” (versus “lazy”, “naughty”, “grumpy”, “noisy” or “shy”), that he pee’d at 10:50, 12:10 and 2:10, that he played with a ball and that he enjoyed the company of Cooper H, Champ and Ivy. In the comments section, I learned that “Jack had a great day!! He immediately fell in love with Cooper and gave him tons of kisses! We would love to have him back!!”

I’m such a sucker. As soon as I saw that report card, I felt so proud of my overzealous hound that I could have cried. Instead of feeling guilty or resentful about not being a “good enough” dog owner, I thanked my lucky stars a place like Rex’s Place exists. Even if I bring Jack one or two times a month, that’ll be a great chance to let him roam free and work off some of his pent-up energy.

The very best part, aside from the incredible staff (including Iraqui War Veteran Meg, who, Kathy says, is a primary reason for her business’ success), Rex’s Place is now officially the only place to board dogs in Evanston. Kathy tells me the City of Evanston approached her about creating a boarding facility after the received several inquiries about where residents might find go for boarding in town.  The coolest part is that the boarding is cage-free: dogs spend their time away from home in a home-like atmosphere, complete with couches, a television and a live-in staff member who spends the night with the dogs on a pull-out bed.  According to Kathy, boarding at Rex's Place begins on December 20 and will be available only to clients who use Rex’s Place at least 2x’s/month so the dogs are familiar with the staff -- and vice versa.

If you’re a dog owner, check the place out. It’s a little gem tucked just west of Green Bay Road (almost behind the Walgreen’s), and it’s one of Evanston’s most amazing new businesses.

kathy lichtentstein November 14, 2011 at 07:06 PM
They say you learn something new every day and today is no exception. Meg has just let me know that a) she served in the Navy during the Iraq war and b) she is a veteran but c) she is not an Iraqui war vet. It's a distinction I was not aware of and Meg wanted me to make that clarification. Thanks for the great article Christine - it was OUR pleasure to have Big Jack and we can't wait to see both of you again.
Christine Wolf November 14, 2011 at 08:28 PM
Thanks for the clarification, Kathy. Most of all, thank you, Meg, for your service in the U.S. Military. I hear you're going to become another type of vet...a veterinarian. Best of luck to you!

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