Happy Hounds Doggy Day Care Perseveres Through Pandemic
Writer / Kelly Young Photos Provided
Happy Hounds is a new full-service doggy daycare run by young adults with autism and other developmental disabilities. They welcome furry friends in with open paws to a safe place where they are loved and cared for by a team of the most loving and caring team members. The business is the second started by the Alex and Ali Foundation, a local nonprofit that empowers people with disabilities through meaningful employment opportunities.
“Dogs don’t judge, and they love unconditionally,” says Jennifer Parker, president of the Alex and Ali Foundation. “One of my proudest moments recently was when one of our team members told me they had saved the day because he had taken care of the dogs that day and the dogs were happy. My heart was filled with so much pride and joy.”
Not only are these team members “saving the day”, but they are developing valuable job skills, vocational activities, and interacting with the community. Happy Hounds is giving them opportunities that they might not otherwise get.
According to Jennifer, the adults who serve as their team members have the same desire to work, they just have different abilities and learn differently. Too often, they are turned away for jobs that they are qualified for because someone sees their disability and not their ability.
Jennifer and her husband, Andrew, discovered early on that some autistic young adults, including their son, Alex, needed a place to thrive after completing high school. Many young adults living with developmental disabilities decide not to pursue college or day programs, but still want to engage in opportunities to socialize and work. They decided to create safe spaces for those young adults, including their most recent investment in Happy Hounds.
“We feel strongly that the world needs them, and in this case, dogs need them,” Jennifer says. “Happy Hounds is the perfect place for our team members to flourish and to be happy. And the dogs are so incredibly happy. It’s really a win-win.”
Opening a doggy day care during the pandemic has been a challenge. With people working from home, the demand for their services is not as high as initially anticipated. However, the Parkers purchased the building and property in 2019 and they are determined to persevere.
“We don’t want people sitting at home watching TV, playing on the computer, clicking around on social media, when they can be contributing greatly to society,” Jennifer says. “They have too much to offer.”
Happy Hounds is located on the south side of Indianapolis, 111 W. Stop 11 Rd. There are currently 40 team members who play with the dogs, cuddle them, exercise them, clean them, and pick up after them. Team members are also mowing the grass and caring for the facility. Most recently they have started making and selling dog treats. Happy Hounds is open Monday-Friday, 7am-6:30pm. They have capacity to care for 25 dogs daily.
The Parkers want to grow the business. While Happy Hounds is just a doggy day care for now, they want to double in size and expand to boarding, training, and grooming. More than anything, they want their customers (and potential customers) to know that their staff is completely capable individuals. They are unique, fun, kind, and compassionate people who really love dogs.
The Alex and Ali Foundation is a nonprofit based in Greenwood, IN focused on empowering young adults with autism and other developmental disabilities through meaningful employment opportunities and vocational training. The foundation was formed in 2014 and named after the Parkers’ son, Alex, who has autism and his best friend, Ali Callahan.