Bowen Island Dog Ranch has reopened after an eight-month closure

The boarding facility is under the same management again after an eight-month break

Owner Karen Munro is back at the helm, and she’s bringing in new faces as Bowen Island Dog Ranch opens its doors to customers once again.

After an eight-month hiatus, the boarding facility welcomes visitors of the two-legged and most importantly four-legged variety. During this time the future of the farm was very doubtful, but now it has come out the other side stronger.

Bowen residents are likely familiar with the Adams Road location, which has been in business since 2007. Munro saw the vast wooded and mountainous terrain as the perfect location for a dog boarding operation, along with plenty of vacant land for buildings.

Munro says he was inspired to start the business after unsuccessfully searching for a similar facility where he could leave his dogs and feel comfortable. After several months of renovations, especially in the main barn, which currently serves as home for most of the dogs, it’s time to start welcoming guests.

“We built it and they came,” says Munro.

The barn renovation included adding an extra level, better insulation and Plexiglas doors so the dogs could see each other from their stalls. “We wanted something friendly as well as safe. We didn’t want cages and chain link fences, I wanted it to be a dog friendly place. But I also wanted the dogs to see the rooms… It’s a very functional building,” says Munro.

It’s not just the design that’s been carefully crafted – Munro has also worked on the aesthetics. “We play spa music, dog sleep music. This is story or spa music specifically for dogs and it calms them more than anything else. And there we have a night light. Apart from bringing them into our homes, it’s as kind as we can be,” he explains.

The boarding center has thrived for more than a decade, but like many facilities, it suffered once the COVID pandemic struck in early 2020. Fewer people traveling meant less need for dogs, which required more time and space at home. Reservation cancellations and layoffs became a reality at the ranch.

However, a new opportunity arose to help keep things afloat. People stuck at home have seen a spike in puppy adoptions during the pandemic — puppies that need training. Rancho was in training for the summer of 2020, and the doors could remain open through this new avenue.

The following year, fate dealt the ranch another blow as both Munro and its lead trainer developed health problems, requiring them to step down. When his trainer decided not to return to the ranch, the business was left with no one to run it.

“I didn’t see a way forward to stay open. And I needed a break because it’s been a lot of work for 15 years and it hasn’t stopped,” says Munro. Ranch closed – potentially then, November 15, 2021.

On that day, torrential rains washed away the main road from the road to the property, making it impassable for vehicles.

Inquiries quickly poured in about what had happened. “I’ve had a lot of people come up to me to find out if I’m reopening or if I’m selling it to a new owner who is going to reopen it,” says Munro.

Ultimately, Munro said, he couldn’t find the right owners for the space. Some potential buyers were not interested in continuing to board and train the dogs, and some dog rescuers simply could not afford the price. After several months of trying, “I just decided to reopen it myself,” Munro said.

This year, July 28 was the official opening, but Munro has previously said he plans to return. “As soon as I announced (the reopening) at the end of June, people were absolutely ecstatic that I had reopened. “A lot of people have no other place to take their trusted dog,” he says.

Munro was already back on his feet after surgery, and this time he had plenty of help at his disposal. Cathy Gagner is the farm’s new manager and is part of a 10-person staff that includes almost all of Munro’s boarding team from last year, as well as a veterinary technician. “I wouldn’t have reopened without them,” says a grateful Munro.

Rancho is returning to its boarding roots, now offering both classic and enhanced boarding options. “Enriched boarding is the latest trend in dog boarding. Enriched boarding is all about brain games because if you exercise a dog too much…it’s not really good for them, it’s like you’re cutting it in half and making them use their brains,” explains Munro.

Enriched boarding includes playing with the dogs, as well as taking them on walks or beach days. “We use their brains more than the average day… The property already gives the dogs a lot of exercise, but it’s not one-on-one,” says Munro.

Most dogs come from the North Shore and Vancouver and are picked up on Monday and Thursday morning trips to the mainland. Day camps are also available during the week as a shorter-term option.

“Physically, I didn’t know I would be able to work until May (2022),” Munro said of how close the operation is to closing for good. He’s still looking for certain positions, including coaches and caretakers, but is happy with how things have gone over the past two and a half years.

“It’s been exciting to reopen because it’s a new era… It’s been very difficult – but we’ve gotten through it, now we’re in the fall and the systems are back in place. Things are going really smoothly,” says Munro.

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