Going to the dogs

Published 9:42 am Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Bella, a curious female beagle, is one of the dogs Staycation Pet Care dog sits. Cindy Rettke pets her own dog, a golden Labrador named Duke, in the background. -- Andrew Dyrdal/Albert Lea Tribune

Cindy Rettke and Del Schroader hate kennels.

So much so that six years ago Rettke began dog-sitting for friends so the pets didn’t have to be kenneled when their owners went to work.

Bella, a curious female beagle, is one of the dogs Staycation Pet Care dog sits. Cindy Rettke pets her own dog, a golden Labrador named Duke, in the background. -- Andrew Dyrdal/Albert Lea Tribune

She didn’t ask for any money, only for peace of mind for their pups.

Rettke’s friends eventually started paying her. Once demand grew so high she teamed with friend Del Schroader and turned those favors into a business.

“Dogs are used to their home environment,” Rettke said. “If they go to a kennel, they don’t know if their owners are coming back or not.”

Six months ago they launched Staycation Pet Care, a service that provides doggie day care at Rettke’s house and in-home pet care for their customers.

The business is growing slowly but steadily and January will be their busiest month.

“It’s like babysitting,” Schroader said. “Word of mouth is how you grow. And once you find a good babysitter, you stick with them.”

Staycation Pet Care began with in-home services. Rettke and Schroader traveled to customers’ homes to take care of their pets so that they could stay in their own environment.

They fed them and gave them fresh water, let them out to exercise and go to the bathroom and administered any medication the pets needed.

But they didn’t stop there.

“We also do coplimentary services,” Rettke said. “We’ll clean messes, take out garbage and bring in mail. It’s full-service.”

Customers began asking Rittke if she would take the dogs into her own home because they didn’t like being left alone. Now Rettke and Schroader operate doggie day care 24/7 out of 718 Valley Ave. in Albert Lea.

Del Schroader, left, and Cindy Rettke, right, co-founded Staycation Pet Care six months ago. The two take care of many dogs including, from left, Jasper, Duke and Bella Blue. -- Andrew Dyrdal/Albert Lea Tribune

“Owners drop their dogs off with us and won’t have to worry about getting a kennel,” Rettke said. “They play with the rest of the dogs and when the owners pick them up they don’t have pent-up energy.”

Both Rettke and Schroader have lived around Albert Lea most their lives and have always loved animals.

Schroader was around them on the farm he grew up on and when Rittke finds a stray animal she finds out where they belong or arranges a new home for them.

For doggie day care, Rettke and Schroader charge just $1 per hour and Schroader’s schedule is flexible enough that he’s always available.

They charge $18 for an in-home visit up to 45 minutes for two pets and $2 per extra visit on the same day.

Staycation Pet Care also offers a $10 “lunch special” for a 10 to 15 minute visit over the lunch hour.

Eventually, they want to begin training dogs, too.

“That’s on the agenda,” Schroader said. “We’re eager to add new services down the road.”

Staycation Pet Care co-founder Del Schroader watches Bella Blue, a German Shepard, rest on the floor. Bella Blue is one of the dogs Schroader and Cindy Rettke take care of on a regular basis. -- Andrew Dyrdal/Albert Lea Tribune

Staycation Pet Care is insured and bonded, has 12 steady customers and donates 5 percent of every dollar their customers spend to the Humane Society. They’ve already made their first donation.

It’s Rettke’s dream to be able to quit her current job as a teller at U.S. Bank and run Staycation Pet Care full time. She and Schroader also hope by then the doggie day care will have grown out of Rettke’s house and into a bigger facility.

Find out more about Staycation Pet Care at StaycationPetCare.com.

Cindy Rittke
Age: 42
Address: 718 Valley Ave.
Family: son, Jordan Mehus, 20; daughter, Samantha Mehus, 18
Livelihood: U.S. Bank teller
Interesting fact: After some of her pets gave birth, she once had 21 animals in her house at one time.

Del Schroader
Age: 48
Address: 1028 S. Broadway Ave.
Family: daughter, Brianna Schroader, 21; son, Jacob Schroader, 19
Livelihood: Sunny Bright Laundry manager and apartment manager
Interesting fact: He plays in the Albert Lea pool league.