Khal strides through the rooms, ticking off the names of dogs available for adoption: Ladybug, Russell, Nellie, Joey, Gavin, Champ. The list goes on.
In the big-dog area, two workers are standing in the middle of a small herd of shepherds, retrievers, collies, poodles and the ever-popular mixed breeds. The dogs tilt their heads at the sound of Khal’s voice, and a visitor gets a chance to scratch behind a few ears.
The top two floors have access to screened-in areas, and the ground-floor dogs are taken to a backyard area regularly.
It all started in 2000, when Schreiber began a dog-walking business in Dupont Circle. Then she started a doggie day care in Shaw and Khal came to work with her. They married four years ago, after Wagtime moved to the neighborhood near D.C.’s Walter E. Washington Convention Center. In its new home, Wagtime has exploded: It’s a pet boutique, grooming service, doggie day-care center and boarding facility with 55 employees, including groomers, day-care employees, walkers, drivers, night-shift workers and receptionists.
There seems to be plenty for those employees to do: With all of its services, Wagtime hosts more than 150 dogs every day, at $35 a day for doggie day care and $53 a night for boarding; grooming rates are based on the breed and size of dog. The enterprise has even attracted the attention of National Geographic, whose crews recently spent three days filming a pilot episode of a show about doggie day care.
But not all of those dogs are paying guests. Schreiber and Khal’s “pet spa” works with local rescue agencies and shelters to foster dogs for adoption, fostering the dogs themselves or hooking them up with “foster parents” who take in the dogs, socialize them, and feed and care for them until permanent owners can be found. Together the partners are like a canine’s Robin Hood — they use profits from financially secure dog owners to support canines in need. About 20 percent of the dogs at Wagtime are fosters.
“Ozzy, he’s a special case,” Khal says, gesturing toward a 1-year-old Rottweiler mix. “He’s been here for like a month now, and it’s starting to get to that point where he’s like, ‘Okay, I’m done with this place.’ ”
While the day-care environment is a fun break for dogs, it wears on them in the long term. “It’s constantly playtime. There’s no quiet time, there’s no owner,” Khal says. “You can’t get a good night’s sleep!”
Ozzy just got back from an hour-long walk to the dog park. All of the adoptable dogs get daily walks with a staff person. “It is challenging, because he’s a more hyper dog,” Khal explains. “But he doesn’t need a lot of training; he just needs a routine and an owner.”