Barbara Jackson commanding her Mini Mutt clients. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

ELISA VORSTER
elisa.vorster@age.co.nz

Barbara Jackson was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired – so she quit her job and transformed her Featherston home into a doggy daycare centre.

Three years later, Mini Mutts has more than 30 canine clients on the books, providing a home away from home for people’s pets.

Mrs Jackson had the unconventional idea of creating a daycare centre for dogs in her lounge after her supermarket job had begun to take a toll on her health.

“It became harder and harder to be on my feet for even a few hours,” she said.

The effects of working eight-hour shifts while her pets were home alone were also weighing on her mind.

“I left my dogs at home when I went to work, and I was always worried about them.

“I thought ‘there must be other people who worry about leaving their dogs on their own’.”

Her husband agreed the daycare sounded like a good idea, so she finally decided to go for it.

“I was sitting outside at The Tin Hut with my husband and my daughter, Hanna, having a drink with the doggies around us and Hanna came up with the name Mini Mutts.”

Before she knew it, she had her first “proper client” – an eight-year-old dog named Suzie, who suffered from severe separation anxiety.

Since then, her client base had exploded – she looks after 14 dogs on an average day.

You won’t find any kennels or crates at Mini Mutts — Mrs Jackson barely has room for herself on the couch as she cuddles her furry clients in what she described as a “home away from home environment”.

“They’re cared for as they would be in their own home, with lots of love and cuddles.”

Mrs Jackson was so committed to the business, that she moved to a bigger property in Featherston.

Now she has a fenced-off area where new dogs can meet the existing mini mutts safely for the first time, as well as a large exercise paddock featuring tyres, things to climb on and a giant dirt pile for them to scratch around in.

“They love getting up there because they can happily dig and know they won’t get told off.”

She also takes them on outings to Lake Wairarapa, provides basic grooming as well as doing the occasional obedience training activity.

All her services are for small dog breeds, but as word started to spread she started getting inquiries from clients she was unable to cater for.

“I felt bad turning people away with larger dogs and I wondered what I could do to help them in another way.”

She enlisted the help of her friend, Annemarie Thompson, who had just last week set up a dog walking service which catered for dogs of all sizes.