Greetings all Pack Parents:

This is not one of Izzy’s usual pee-mails. Rather, it’s a serious message from Beth, Bethany and Lori about what Dog-ma is doing to limit our clients’ and staffs’ exposure to COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control issued a guidance to businesses, and we wanted to share with you what we are doing.

Cleaning protocols and special procedure for you and our staff

We’re redoubling our rather fanatical daily cleaning, bleaching and disinfecting routine inside and out. As you know, we are able to keep Bordetella and other bugs at bay with this routine, which involves washing the crates, inside floors and walls, and outside walkway and paved areas with a bleach solution several times a day with all bedding and bowls machine washed at high heat. In addition, we already had begun disinfecting high traffic areas like doorknobs and gate latches every 20 minutes during peak hours as the COVID-19 alerts started.

PLEASE DO NOT LEAVE YOUR LEASHES AT DOG-MA. We are asking that you take your dog’s leash off in the entry box and bring it back for pick up. This will lessen the risks to all of touching items others have their paws on. But also, we want to start bleach spraying the fencing top to bottom in the entry box. (Normally, when staff does the bleach solution spray down of the walkway, we Lysol the leashes and fencing and now we want to be able to douse the entire entry box regularly with the bleach solution.)

WE ALSO HAVE SET UP A HAND SANITIZING STATION AT THE START OF THE WALKWAY. Please use the Purel when you come in and when you go out, as an extra precaution as we cannot spray the latches after each person touches them. Even though the Purel you will find to your right as you enter is attached the fence by duct tape, the dispenser works: Pump the bottom a few times. (The extra large Purel dispensers came in, but wall attachments did not yet…)

WE ASK YOU TO PLEASE CALL THE OFFICE WITH QUESTIONS, RATHER THAN CHATTING OVER THE FENCE. We are trying to take the social distancing protocol to heart. As a matter of good dog handling, you will usually see the handlers in different corners of the yards. The entry/exit box is the area in which there is the most person-to-person contact, so we are trying to minimize that.

Dog-ma staff are on even more frequent handwashing precautions. (Part of our normal protocol is regular handwashing with disinfecting soap to avoid spreading any dog germs, like Bordetella.) We also have hand sanitizer in the office, food and crate rooms for staff. Shared pizza lunches and sharing the wonderful goodies some of you bring in for the staff are off for the foreseeable future. And of course, we are urging any staff that is feeling ill to stay home.

We love you, but please do not come to Dog-Ma or send your dog if you are feeling sick…

If you are feeling ill, please do not have your dog come to daycare. Even if someone else drops off your pup, we do not want dogs at Dog-ma households with folks who have symptoms of COVID-19. That puts our staff at risk for exposure and other pup parents too. The risk of transmission from a dog is not from the dog being sick with COVID-19, but from contamination because a human sneezes on their dog or touches a dog after touching their nose or mouth and then another human picks up the virus from touching that dog. That is not considered a high risk, but given not enough is known about how long the virus remains viable on various surfaces, we want to play it extra safe.

Some folks have inquired about having us take care of their dogs if they get sick. We are formulating plans to be able to help. Most critically, we will need to know you’re ill so we can wipe down your dog with skin-friendly sanitizer. If you are feeling ill and need to board, please have someone else drop off your dog. Call the office to make arrangements, if necessary.

Also, some information about Dog-ma personnel policies that may be helpful to you: Dog-ma staff have paid sick leave. (So, yes, we would fall in the exception category for small businesses in the House-passed Corona Virus emergency bill, but that’s not how we roll at Dog-ma.) We are a bit relentless about making sure sick staff stay home – it is critical to protect the other staff and the human family of our four-legged clients. So far, all of the Dog-ma staff are feeling healthy. If a Dog-ma staffer is diagnosed with COVID-19, we will inform you via email. We are shifting staff meetings to conference calls and will delay group trainings. We are having an all staff meeting this week at which we will again review special COVID-19 personal and facility precautions.

Also, we are suspending in-house pet sitting and dog-walking services for now, as these pose additional risks for all involved. We have had significant cancellations on both fronts. So, we suspect you have your needs covered – because you are home. If you need these services and are in a jam, call the office so we can try to help sort out a solution.

Thank you for being part of the Dog-ma pack and helping us maximize everyone’s safety

We promise to be back in touch with any new developments – either new information from CDC or other sources on best practices for facilities such as Dog-Ma or if, heaven forbid, one of the Dog-ma staff becomes ill. We request that you also let us know if anyone in your household becomes ill, so we can notify our staff who may have been in contact with you and decide if they need to stay away from Dog-ma until we know they are healthy.

This is new territory for all involved. Our commitment to you is to do our utmost to help keep the whole Dog-Ma pack – two-legged and four-legged – healthy and as happy as conditions permit.

Lori, Beth and Bethany

Note: If folks are wondering about whether their pups can get COVID-19, this recent Washington Post story reports the risk is low but not zero. The dog in Hong Kong that initially tested positive and is in quarantine – and whose owner has COVID-19 – had further blood tests that came back negative, meaning no antibodies for the virus though that does not rule out the chance that the dog had a “mild” case. No special precautions for dogs are recommended at this time.