Shawn Sullivan is looking to help — any way he can.
Sullivan and his wife Erika Sullivan noticed the city of Federal Way lacked places that community members could take their dogs while at work. So, on Nov. 28, the couple turned their home in into a doggy day care center.
The community can bring their dogs to the Sullivan’s Monday through Friday at 28715 14th Ave. S. Hours of availability are flexible depending on an owner’s needs. They typically range from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Sullivan said he got the idea during one of his many dreadful daily commutes from Federal Way to Kirkland for work. He realized the only joy he got out of that daily grind was the five to 10-minute window when he played and interacted with other dogs while dropping off his own dog at Scampers.
“I was getting more excited about that window then I was for the entire day,” Sullivan said. “So, I really had to evaluate what it was I wanted to do with my life. My wife, who works for the county has given me the opportunity to play with dogs all day and I’m so grateful for that.”
While the couple is currently operating out of their home, they are in the process of shopping for a store front within the city.
With the current plan of operating their business from home, the city permits the Sullivan’s to host no more than five dogs each day. But he said the city was on board with the idea from the very beginning.
For Sullivan, it more than an opportunity to start a new business. It was an opportunity to stay in Federal Way on a permanent basis.
It was also an opportunity for him to serve again.
Sullivan is a disabled veteran. He’s been involved in the community, running against Mark Miloscia for the local house seat a few years ago.
“I love and live in Federal Way,” Sullivan said. “Every time I come back here I love it. But I was spending so much time up in Kirkland, I wasn’t investing in the local community. But now I can do that.”
It’s drawing on his military experience that has Sullivan wanting to do more than just an average doggy day care.
One of Sullivan’s closest friends returned from serving not long ago, and he was in need of a service dog that specialized in post-traumatic stress disorder. Sullivan said finding a service dog proved to be a very difficult process.
Sullivan said what struck him was the extremely long wait time his friend went through for a disorder that can trigger at any given moment.
He had an idea of becoming a service dog trainer, but because of his disability, which is borderline autism, he does not qualify to train service animals.
So, instead of going that route, Sullivan has partnered with the local Veterans Affairs office to help those who have dogs and have regular appointments at the Federal Way clinic.
“Anybody that has an appointment at the VA clinic in Federal Way can drop their dog off here for up to two hours free of charge,” Sullivan said. “They don’t have to worry about what to do with their dog. They’ve worried enough. They can leave it here while they go to their appointment.”
Sullivan ultimately wants to provide a space where veterans can come and just spend time with other dogs. He said he has personally found interactions with other dogs helpful after what he’s been through during his time of service.
He is currently working with the Small Business Association to establish a long-term plan, focusing on the next 12 months.
Sullivan said he’s been back to Scampers and other doggy day care centers to find out what works for them, what doesn’t, and different layout ideas.
For example, Sullivan provides owners with a “doggy report card.” He documents all good and bad behavior when dogs spend the day with him in order to give owners a better idea of progress.
Sullivan said the biggest challenge has been registering his business with Google.
“Getting Google to recognize us as a business was crazy,” Sullivan said. “It took almost two weeks of back and forth. That was the hardest part.”
Right now, the Sullivan’s reoccurring client is Jasmine, a 13-year-old papillon. She is blind and deaf in one ear.
Sullivan said he looks forward to watching Jasmine each day. Because her owner is an elderly woman, Sullivan said his one task is to play with her until she’s exhausted. That way, her owner can bring her home and she’ll go right to sleep.
Sullivan said his next obtainable goal is to start providing “doggy excursions.” He wants to take dogs to a different location around Puget Sound each weekend.
Last weekend, he took a couple of dogs to Bainbridge Island to play on the beach.
“If you’re in a situation where you’re going on vacation, you can’t take them with you,” he said. “You bring them here and we want them to have their own vacation, too.”
Connecting with Sullivan and his new day care is simple. You can contact Sullivan at www.puppysdaycare.com, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To get started, Sullivan requires the breed of the dog, all shot records need to be current, when those clear, Sullivan gives the dog a temperament test.
The test is $15, and Sullivan spends the day putting the dog through basic tests. If the dogs passes, the $15 is credited towards the next visit.
Sullivan said part of providing a service is making sure everyone is happy. He said it’s a promise he makes to all his customers.
“We will never let your pet go unsupervised,” Sullivan said. “And we will never put your pet in a cage. If you want a cage-free boarding experience where they get their own pet bed, their own space with a relaxed atmosphere, we’re the place for you.”