WAXAHACHIE — What once served as a child daycare has, literally, gone to the dogs as a one-of-a-kind canine retreat center for all Waxahachie “fur babies.”

“We had a lot of customers who had a lot of anxiety when they dropped off their dogs and were like, ‘We’ve never boarded our dogs before,’” began Michael Morales, owner of Woof Den Doggy Daycare and Board. “And we were like, ‘Don’t worry about it; we’ll take care of them as if they were our own.’ And when we started sending them pictures for them to see their dogs having fun and running around, and being dogs, they felt more comfortable. And that’s how we’ve been getting our returning customers ever since."

Owned and operated by Michael and Melissa Morales, the doggy daycare came from a passion for animals and a shared dream that, at first, almost seemed implausible to accomplish.

“We were in the corporate world, working in IT. My wife, Melissa, and I had been there for about 19 years, and I was just done,” Morales recollected. “We worked a lot of hours, and we thought and prayed hard about this business for two to three years, and it just happened one day when we were looking for a house.”

Built in 1997, the underground home-like structure was originally intended to be a doctor’s office until unfortunate circumstances transitioned it into a child daycare, later operated by the Fuerte Foundation.

From there, the building was put on the market with the Morales’ purchasing the property in January 2016.

“We drove by one day and thought that it looked like an interesting place and that we could use it,” Morales remembered. “My wife said, ‘This could be our chance to do something different and get out of IT altogether.’ So I was like, ‘Okay, let's do it!’”

After obtaining the property, the Morales’ had prepared to make renovations and landscape adjustments by June 2016. However, things didn’t go according to plan.

“Opening this place wasn't easy at all, because my mom got very sick and was diagnosed with leukemia, and that pushed everything back,” said Morales as he shook his head. “But we’ve been blessed because she’s now in remission and doing better. So we tried to open up this January, but we had plumbing issues, and one thing after another just kept going against us. But at the end of February, we finally opened.”

Opening their doors this year with 24-hour care and supervision, the Morales’ provide a facility with an indoor playroom, three outdoor play yards, a grooming room, and climate-controlled suites with complimentary cots, dog beds, and blankets.

“We don’t believe in keeping the dogs in the kennel all day,” Morales recognized the need for canine socialization and exercise. “We like for them to get out and play as much as possible because we’ve boarded our dogs before with indoor and outdoor runs, and they didn’t like it.”

“The second time we went to drop them off, they wouldn’t get out of the car. So we were like, ‘Oh no, I guess they don’t like this,’” he chuckled. “That’s why we provide a service for this community that they don’t have. Our customers will definitely get their money’s worth because we’re a quality service that understands a dog's need.”

Adding to the list of qualifications, Morales also mentions their Obedience Training program with the daycare’s on-site trainer, Allie Payne.

“She knows the ropes and actually teaches us a few things,” Morales laughed.

“Allie’s experience blew us away. She can get five or six dogs perfectly lined up at the same time and looking up. And we’re over here with the dogs running all over the place saying, ‘Hey, don’t do that,’" he joked. "That’s how good she is.”

“I’ve been professionally training dogs for about six or seven years now,” expressed Allie Payne, Woof Den’s head dog trainer.

“I’ve learned from many mentors, volunteering with shelters, working at a pet resort, studying on my own, and a lot of self-taught trial and error with dogs,” she explained her qualifications.

“When people come here we want them to know that we’ll take care of their dog just like they would. We’ll even teach them a few things while they’re here – it’s all about the TLC for the customer,” she included.

As business continues to build its reputation for quality service, there’s one thing that sets this doggy daycare apart from the rest.

“We text pictures,” Morales told of their unique charm. “We take pictures of the dogs and send them to our customers, and it’s been a big hit. Other pet resorts are bigger operations, and we’re just starting out, but we thought, ‘What can we do that would be different?’ And my wife came up with the idea to take pictures and send them – it was brilliant.”

“And our customers love it! They tell me, ‘We love that you do that because it gives us reassurance that our dogs are doing well, playing around, and are happy.’ It shows them that they’re not just stuck in a kennel all day. So that’s basically our niche,” he acknowledged.

From daycare to overnight boarding and training, Woof Den is filling a need in the community, one puppy at a time.

“One of the reasons we opened in Waxahachie is because they’ve been so welcoming, and it doesn’t have anything like this,” Morales expressed.

“And now that the word is getting out that we’re here and we love dogs and our customers, the community has been very supportive and entrusting us with their ‘fur babies,’” he finished with a smile.

To connect with Woof Den Doggy Daycare and Boarding, visit woofdentexas.com or call (214)-463-5820.

---

Chelsea Groomer, @ChelseaGroomer

(214)-223-53