Driving on Dixie Highway, north of Oakland Park Boulevard, people may notice a building with a sign for Central Bark. This unique doggy daycare facility is quite deceiving. Despite being located on a busy road and modest sign, Central Bark boasts an astonishing 10,000 square feet of indoor space, in addition to 6,000 square feet of outdoor park-like space where clients can bring their dogs for a day or overnight stay.
Founded by Chris Gaba and Jackie Jordan in 2000, Central Bark has franchised to include an astounding 29 locations in seven states including Pennsylvania, Louisiana and Wisconsin.
“Our ultimate goal is to deliver the Central Bark experience to the millions of dogs throughout the country,” states Gaba, who together with his husband Robert, have two dogs of their own.
Customers immediately recognize the enormity of the facility upon entry. The sprawling campus consists of a large retail space, where customers can purchase everything from nutritional products to leashes to grooming products.
“We are definitely different from other doggy daycares in the area,” Gaba tells SFGN. “We’ve been doing this a lot longer than most and emphasize the importance of socialization and interaction amongst the dogs.”
When pets are brought to Central Bark, they are given a thorough assessment to analyze their temperament towards other dogs. If the staff determines the animal may be a threat to others, they will refuse to house them. But once inside, Central Bark is a dog’s paradise.
All dogs at Central Bark have assigned play, nap and snack times, and are treated to aromatherapy and classical music.
“We offer a place where dogs can be dogs,” states Gaba. “People tend to treat their pets like surrogate children and place unrealistic expectations on them.” Gaba explains that many dogs were bred for a purpose, whether it be hunting, protection, or guiding. “When those activities are taken away from them, the dog may partake in a behavior that we view as bad, but in fact is natural to the dog.”
New customers to Central Bark are required to commit to at least one day per week at the facility on a scheduled day. The day is determined on the dog’s temperament, as Gaba groups like dogs together. “Other facilities have dogs coming in and out all of the time. It’s really not a safe way to run a day care, as there is greater risk for health and aggression issues amongst the dogs.” Pets must also be spayed or neutered.
All employees of Central Bark are put through a rigorous four-tier training program where they are taught how to deal with the many issues that may arise in their profession. In addition, the Central Bark staff is familiar with canine first aid, CPR and animal behavior.
Other services that Central Bark provides include Puppy Play Group, Doggy Birthday Parties, Veterinary Services, Doggy Salon and Obedience Training.
On a personal note, Gaba and his husband Robert Baylis met in 1996 at a gym in Atlanta while Baylis was attending a convention. “A gay gym is like a frat house. When a new guy comes along, everybody takes notice,” Gaba says jokingly. It was love at first sight and they have been together ever since.
The couple held a long-distance relationship for two years, but soon decided to relocate together to Fort Lauderdale, where they are the now proud parents of two children, Christian (20 months) and Cooper (7 months). The pair adopted through a company based in California called Growing Generations, which specializes in gay adoption.
“Being a parent is one of the hardest and most rewarding things we have ever done,” states Gaba. “As a gay man, you never think you’ll have the opportunity to be a parent. Robert and I feel so blessed.”
The couple has even enrolled the infants in swim lessons. “Seeing life through their eyes is really fascinating,” Gaba tells us. “They live in the moment.” Gaba refers to a recent holiday in Georgia where Christian was wide-eyed from the change of environment.
As far as their four-legged children, Sophie and Taz, Gaba cannot be happier with the way the dogs have welcomed the babies. “Sophie is so gentle to them. The babies adore the dogs.”
For more information, please visit CentralBarkUSA.com or call 954.568.3647.