Puppy Love

Enterprise staff report
The dogs are all smiles as they go on a walk. At Wanderlust, the dogs receive at least two long walks throughout the day with many "pee breaks" in between.
Anthony Thornton | |

Westminster Kennel Club Show host Roger Caras once noted “Dogs are not our whole lives, but they make our lives whole.”

Anyone interested in testing the veracity of this observation doesn’t have to venture far beyond the confines of western Eagle County, where judging by the various canine-centered businesses, people really love their dogs.

From specialty services offered by local vets to busy dog grooming salons to a newly opened doggie day care, canines in Eagle and Gypsum attract lots of commercial attention.

Satiating a Wanderlust

It’s one thing to love your dog. It’s another to love all dogs so much you are willing to spend every waking day caring for animals you don’t own. Jason Hershman falls into that second category.

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Hershman recently opened Wanderlust Dog Ranch — a doggie day care store front operating from a location in Eagle Ranch and a boarding facility operated from his home located along Salt Creek.

“We offer premium dog care during the day, seven days a week, and we call it five star boarding services at night,” said Hershman.

Hershman originally hails from New Jersey and most recently he lived in Los Angeles where he worked for a web start-up. When he sold that business, he knew he didn’t want to move back to the East Coast and he decided the time was right to move to Colorado. As he considered what he wanted to do for a living, Hershman honed in on this canine care idea.

“I have just been obsessed with dogs my whole life,” he said. His first dog was a Golden Retriever named Lucy and his current canine crew includes a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog named Nate and a Pit Bull mix rescue dog named Fabio.

“Fabio is our first success story,” said Hershman. “My girlfriend and I fostered him for 10 hours and decided to adopt him.”

Not long after they brought him to their home, Fabio was attacked by another dog and it has been a long process of re-socializing him to be around other canines. “He is finally at the point that he can be around other dogs, so I can sympathize with anyone who has a troubled dog.”

While Wanderlust bills itself as doggie day care, Hershman said operation is more of a canine educational environment. “It’s kind of like grade school. If a dog is at home all day, they aren’t going learn much while they are all alone,” he said.

Before scheduling a day at Wanderlust, Hershman asks owners to drop by with their dogs for an assessment. “It they aren’t a good candidate for day camp, we offer dog obedience classes with them,” he said.

During an average day at Wanderlust, the staff works with canines on social and obedience skills. The animals are leashed up and taken out for four to six walks per day and for an extra fee, owners can arrange for dog hikes. Hershman noted the business’s location in Eagle Ranch Village means there are many great walking paths right outside its doors.

“So far, the feedback has been great,” said Hershman. He noted that owners are very appreciative to collect their worn-out dogs at the end of the day.

We have been getting a lot of sleeping dog pictures sent to us.”

Wanderlust charges $30 per dog per day for a regular session. A half-day stay costs $20 and the charge for special hikes is $15. Boarding services are $55 per night and include individual dog rooms. The business can be reached at 970-328-4960 or visit its website at

Hershman said the overall goal of Wanderlust is simple — to teach all dogs how to be good dogs. With that said, however, he noted his business is as much about people as it is about canines.

“We want to help dogs be everything they can be. As much as this is a dog business, this is also a human business to make sure the relationship between the dog and the owner is positive.”

Veterinary variety

“Eagle and Gypsum people love their pets and take much better care of their pets than ‘big city’ people do,” said vet Steve Sheldon of Gypsum Animal Hospital. “Animals provide so much to us in return for so little from us.”

Sheldon has two standard poodles in his family. They were no doubt part of the inspiration for his companion business —Big Steve’s Dog Wash in Gypsum.

Sheldon has been a vet for 28 years, with 20 of those being in Florida so he speaks with experience when he notes, “Colorado people are, on average, much more committed to their pets.”

Even though local pups are pampered and primped, owners are levelheaded about it, said Shelton. Since their dogs go virtually everywhere with them, they get down and dirty on hiking trails and on campsites. Most are exposed to the same lifestyle their owners enjoy. Downvalley people are very pragmatic in their approach to their pets as opposed to second homeowners. Sheldon said that since locals often opt for a more common sense approach, it allows local vets to do as much as possible here, which keeps costs down for clients.

To keep canine costs down, make sure a dog is current on vaccinations. Also, in our area, tick control is important. Then there are the winter risks – such as being careful with the lethal antifreeze as pets will lick it off the ground. Owners should use common sense with exposure to cold temperatures with their dogs. Since local owners are more apt to take their dogs with them everywhere, vaccinations are a must.

Along with the Gypsum Animal Hospital, Eagle and Gypsum residents have their choice of other clinics with solid reputations, including Castle Peak Veterinary Service, located on Chambers in Eagle and Mountain Mobile Veterinary Services and Animal Surgical and Hospital Center.

Among the specialities offered at Castle Peak is laser therapy for arthritis, healing and pain management.

For a pup that is just too afraid or sick to leave home, Dr. Shelia Fitzpatrick and staff from Mountain Mobile will come to you.

All three are on call 24 hours/7 days a week.

Canine coifs

As the owner of Dirty Dog, a boarding, day care and grooming business in Eagle, Patti Roth sees every day how much locals love their dogs.

“They love to take care of them and include them in their daily lives, and you see that in many ways – having them groomed, play dates, the puppy plunge at the Eagle pool, the dog carnival or just the daily walk,” said Roth. “Locals love their dogs, and I’m sure glad they do.”

“Locals do adore their dogs,” said Anne McNeil of Got Dogs? Grooming and Boarding. “I have had people call to say good night to their dogs.”

Anyone who has owned a dog knows about how different canine personalities can be. Even canines of the same breed can display very different behaviors. “Dogs are very clever critters, and all have their own little personalities,” said Roth. “People often say I should write a book of the funny things I see day to day.”

There are dogs’ dogs, and those will play with any dog, and then there are those who are more comfortable around humans.

“Some are quiet and just want to be cuddled,” said McNeil.

Mountain mutts are a breed of their own, that often feature a dollop of Labrador. But even pedigreed local dogs also tend to look more like mountain dogs because of their outdoor lifestyles. Some breeds need the regular maintenance of a good shave-down, and one of the biggest concerns local groomers get is that people don’t want their dogs shaved to the skin.

“Most times a dog can be left with a short but cute haircut,” said Roth. “I prefer to leave them fluffy. You can always take a little more off, but you can’t glue it back on.”

Still looking for love

No story about downvalley dogs would be complete without noting there are canines out there still looking for loving families.

This week, there are six adoptable dogs featured on the Eagle County Animal Services web page. Their descriptions and pertinent information can be found during the Animal Services tab at

To visit these canines, the Eagle County Animal Shelter is located on West Chambers Avenue, past the Eagle County Fairgrounds and the Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District ballfields. The shelter is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with adoption hours from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. to ensure that potential adopters have plenty of time with the animal they’ve chosen and to fill out necessary paperwork. Saturday hours are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. with adoption hours from 9 a.m. until 12:30 p.m.

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