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Bow Wow Playground provides fun, social environment for local pups

VILLA PARK — At work, Joanne Marcotte is the self-described alpha. It’s a crucial role if she’s going to keep the dozens of dogs she cares for in line.

Marcotte, who grew up in Elmhurst and now lives in Lombard, opened her business, Villa Park’s Bow Wow Playground, more than four years ago after spending three decades in retail.

She’d had enough of working in a corporate environment and was looking for the opportunity to run her own business when a friend-of-a-friend brought up the topic of doggy daycare.

“I’d never heard of it before,” she said. “It was a whole new idea.”

She ran with it, and now provides boarding and daycare services to dogs. Training and grooming services also are available at the location, 400 W. St. Charles Road, but are done by another business.

The volume of dogs at Bow Wow Playground vary depending on the day, Marcotte said. There’s the set list of dogs she knows will be coming on a specific day, and then there are usually between five to 10 additional a week as space allows.

Marcotte is helped by a team of employees, scheduling workers and dogs so that there are never more than seven dogs to one person.

“My first priority is for the dogs and my employees to be safe, and then for them to have fun and a good time,” she said.

Last week was Spring Break for many of the local schools, and the Bow Wow Playground was packed with wagging tails and wet noses enjoying their own vacations while the humans were away.

Since she’s started the business, Marcotte said she’s seen a significant rise in the popularity of doggy daycare. Dog owners who are unwilling to leave their pets home alone for an extended period of time will bring them to a place like the Bow Wow Playground to socialize with other dogs and be cared for during the day.

“People love their dogs,” she said. “For many, they’re their children. A lot of it is socializing.”

The most important thing a dog owner can do is socialize the pup when he or she is young, Marcotte said. This makes for a happier dog that interacts easily with other dogs and a happier owner who doesn’t have to worry about a dog responding negatively to new people or animals.

Her biggest rule with accepting dogs is that they’re up-to-date on shots. Other than that, she’s flexible. Puppies, elders, big dogs, small dogs and a variety of breeds are represented at Bow Wow Playground.

Marcotte also will take on dogs with special needs.

“It doesn’t really deter us,” she said.

One of the things she enjoys most in her job is seeing how the dogs interact with each other. The dogs who come to Bow Wow Playground know each other, and they’ll look for each other.

Two of the dogs are from the same litter but live with different owners. When they’re together at Bow Wow Playground, they reconnect immediately, she said. The dogs also have their favorite human workers.

“It’s the unconditional love,” Marcotte said of a dog’s companionship. “You can’t beat it. They’re always happy to see you, even if you walk out of the room and come back five seconds later.”

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