Success is infectious. Four years ago Michael Heltzer opened stay, a dog hotel located at 4130 N Rockwell, right on the nature path on the east bank of the Chicago River north of Irving Park Road. The hotel is equipped with a day care facility, grooming, exercise, swimming pool area, and training. After unofficially finding homes for over a thousand rescued dogs, Michael opened a dedicated rescue facility on the premise and named it found.
I met found's executive director, Alicia Boemi today. We began with a tour of the 40,000 square foot facility that was designed by Michael Heltzer, whose prior successes include careers as an attorney, owner of a furniture manufacturer, and owner of the Goose Island Boatyard. The original boatyard space is now the dog hotel and rescue facility.
Alicia led me past the hotel's 6-foot by 8-foot hotel rooms that faced by glass doors and open to the lobby. Owners can view their dogs on cameras in each of the private rooms. Next we walked through the kennel area where rescue dogs are held while being evaluated for their personal levels of rehabilitation and care.
We stopped at the huge swimming pool, which was unoccupied at the moment. However, it is available for both exercise and for recovery. It is used for swimming and for jumping exercises. Heck, it just looked like a fun place, like the rest of this steel and glass structure on the bank of the Chicago River.
The top floor has a 12,000 square-foot playroom that is separated into three areas. Puppies have their own section for tumbling and socializing. Large dogs play together and medium dogs play with small dogs, all with workers supervising the fun.
There is a completely separate solo area for dogs that require one-on-one attention. This is also where rescue dogs begin their socialization. The focus of the rescue program is to rescue, rehab, and re-home the dogs that are at critical risk at the Chicago Animal Care and Control facility. These are the dogs that are ill, too large, or too wild for immediate adoption. The dedicated staff here work with these dogs who "with a little extra care can make good pets" according to Alicia.
It all started with Highway, a St. Bernard - mix pup that was found at the side of the expressway with his neck sliced open. Michael worked with him to socialize him. He was very difficult to rehab because of his fear of people. Michael not only successfully socialized him, he also kept him.
Representatives from stay and found will be at the Horner Park egg hunt for dogs tomorrow, March 27th.