DETROIT — Erica Hill's best friend weighs only 13 pounds, but he can be a terror of a terrier.
That's why Hill, who typically works a 16-hour day in her job with the City of Detroit, admits she could not do the work and hold onto the greatest joy of her life — her 2-year-old pup, Kash — if it weren't for dog day care services.
"I am single so if it were not for Canine to Five, Kash would take over my house," Hill said of the day care and boarding center in Detroit. "He's a very active Yorkie. There, he can socialize with other dogs and it makes my life easier to know that he's safe and he's well-taken care of."
The feeling is mutual. Dog day care owners say those front-line workers helped save their businesses when the coronavirus pandemic hit and their other customers started working from home, keeping Fido at their side instead of in day care. Then, as business travel dissipated, so did dog boarding.
Now these businesses are on the mend as remote workers seek a break from their pup's barking in the background or want them groomed again and are returning to dog day care. Also helping is the swell of puppy adoptions since mid-March.
"I feel like a pandemic puppy was one of 2020's hottest new accessories," said Liz Blondy, owner of Canine to Five. "Our puppy program numbers are good, not great, because there's still a large part of the population not leaving the house, but overall puppy numbers are up in both locations."
Some dog day care business owners said they don't expect a full recovery in their revenue until there is a COVID-19 vaccine. At that time, they expect that many workers will head back to the office and business travel might resume.
But that could be a long dry spell considering the 90-day drought the businesses endured. In early March, most Michigan businesses started shutting down and workers were told to work remotely.
That meant many dogs stopped coming to day care. Blondy had to lay off 90% of her staff across her two locations: one in midtown Detroit and another in Ferndale.
"We went from 98 employees to three working at each location," Blondy said.