Kenl Inn, Almost Thirty Years in the Pet Business

kenl-innNear the outskirts of Lincoln, at 10241 Old Cheney Road, a curvy driveway leads to Kenl Inn. Trees line the path and gray animal statues decorate the left side. After I park my car and take some photographs of the surroundings, I head into the main building where customers bustle about. Some are buying products from the store, while others are checking in their dogs. I’m here to take a tour and to ask questions, as part of a series for LAA Pet Talk about local pet services.

That first Memorial Day we had 32 dogs. We thought we were going to die! Then Labor Day came along and Ben had a heart attack and so was out of commission in a big way. Seventy-six dogs joined us for Christmas. By then, we were learning real fast that people were serious. We began writing down the reservations and assigning runs. Oh, how naive we were!–Dian Quist

Almost thirty years ago, in April of 1988, KQ & Ben Allen opened Kenl Inn for business as a pet boarding facility and a Purina feed dealer. There were just under fifty dog runs and a dozen cattery spaces. None of the perks of grooming, daycare, or training that exist today were available then. Nor did a customer area or retail space. In the rest of this article, I’ll overview Kenl Inn’s growth and introduce Dian Quist, sister of the owner and Manager of Training, Safety, Quality Assurance, and Maintenance at Kenl Inn.

LODGING

The Purina dealership was dropped, making space for the front area to be remodeled. We got a classier look by adding doggy suites, a solarium cattery, and tile flooring in the front room and hallway.–Dian Quist

kenl-inn_lodgingOver the years, Kenl Inn has grown from one building to five, and from fifty dog runs to 100, and unattractive mason-wire kennels have been replaced with more aesthetic ones. Today Kenl Inn offers three indoor lodging areas for dogs. The lower-cost Clubhouse and West Wing are roomy and private. The higher-cost Executive Suites are described on Kenl Inn’s website as spacious with “oak trim, brass fixtures, marble tile floor, Dutch door, full-length window, a raised bed and comforter”. For all lodging, central air and/or heat is provided.

Common reasons people board their pets at Kenl Inn are being on vacation, at work, or sick. Upon pets being checked in, their names are entered in a computer system. A standard paper form is also filled out, which notes the condition of coat and skin, health and disposition, and any provided supplies. This form is attached to the pet’s boarding area as an easy reference for staff. Pet owners are required to bring pre-packaged food and are also welcome to leave favorite toys and bedding. On the form, the amount of food a pet eats, the number of times he goes to the bathroom, and activities he likes are also noted. At the end of their stay, pets will go home with a report card. If scheduled, pet owners may make use of the Inn’s shuttle service to and from their home.

In July of 1991, an electronic fire and burglar alarm system was added. Today every staff member is trained to know what to do in the event of any possible emergency including a tornado. The nearby fire department has conducted training and practice drills with the staff. The sheriff keeps his eye on the property and will call one of the managers if anything looks amiss.

GROOMING

Ben was our first groomer and pretty much self-taught, but we quickly discovered he had an eye for it and was very good. The entire grooming industry was very young and so were we!–Dian Quist

kenl-inn_groom2Not long after the start of the business, upon customer request, grooming was gradually added. In 1994 and again in 2004, equipment was updated and additional grooming staff were hired. These days, with an appointment, pet owners can receive the following services for their dogs or cats: thorough bath, fluff drying, brushing and de-matting, breed-appropriate trim, along with cleaning of ears and trimming of nails. About thirty dogs are groomed each day. Toenail trims are available by drop-in too.

Kenl Inn makes use of the latest grooming technology. In addition to a system that uses traditional water and shampoo, they also have a system that uses “micro bubbles”, which clean without the use of “without the aid of surfactants, detergents or soap.” If your pet has sensitive skin or allergies, you might want to give the “micro bubbles” system a try. Other ways to pamper your pet at Kenl Inn include: three different spa packages (all of which include a hydrating conditioner and cologne), “hair-buster” treatments (which includes thorough brushing, humectant shampoo moisturizers, and an anti-shedding solution), and a “Suds-A-Pup” self-wash (which is equipped with HydroSurge® bathing equipment and a high-velocity dryer).

DAYCARE

By the early 2000’s, about ten years after Kenl Inn’s start, several new services were added. One of them was daycare, which is now available six days a week. For daycare, dogs are divided by size into one of three large outdoor areas furnished with field turf like in many major sports. Two large indoor areas furnished with thick padded flooring are available for use during inclement weather. Dogs that don’t get along are separated from the others.

kenl-inn_trailThe daycare package that owners pick determines the type of day each dog will have. Seven different selections are available that include play time with a pet care attendant or in a group of compatible dogs, with the main difference being length of play time. Some add-ons include Nature Hike and Gym ‘n’ Swim. For the Nature Hike, dogs are taken on a hike on Kenl Inn’s nature trail which winds through trees, past a pond, and along a creek. It’s about a 30-minute walk along a mowed path. For Gym ‘n’ Swim, dogs receive playtime in Kenl Inn’s gym, playing with toys and swimming in the pool!

TRAINING

A trained dog makes for a happy owner!–Kenl Inn

In 2002, Kenl Inn opened a new building that was dedicated to obedience and agility training. Dog owner classes were so successful that in 2004, an old barn and horse lot was torn down to allow for an outdoor agility field. By 2008, more changes occurred. The indoor agility area was converted into multiple play areas, while the outdoor field received more secure fencing. The latter was also offered as a private dog run for clients to let their dogs loose in a large open area.

kenl-inn_agilityToday owners can take any number of classes. Perhaps the most important are those wherein dogs are taught the basics of manners. Dogs learn to sit, lie down, stay, come, and walk on leash without pulling—skills which are all essential to a dog’s safety and conducive to everyone’s happiness. Once dogs master good manners, they can progress to obedience classes where they learn to avoid distractions, practice for the Canine Good Citizenship Test, and/or train for competition. Agility, tracking, and specialty classes are also offered, such as Reactive Rehab, conformation, mobility, and recall. Any kind of training class has the benefit of helping to strengthen the bond between owners and pets.

DIAN QUIST

The fun and beauty of this job is that the animals are all different. Everyone is always learning.–Dian Quist

At this point in my article, I wish to thank Dian Quist for providing me with a tour of Kenl Inn and answering my questions. Dian is the sister of the owner, and Manager of Training, Safety, Quality Assurance, and Maintenance at Kenl Inn.  She grew up with animals: cats, dogs, guinea pigs, pigs, a duck, and a pig to be exact. Prior to joining the staff at Kenl Inn, she worked with animal control, where she enjoyed having the opportunity to help people.

When Dian’s sister first came up with the idea of starting Kenl Inn, Dian helped with the operations while continuing to keep her day job. Dian came on board as kennel manager in 1998.

She loves her job at Kenl Inn. Her experience has been that no one day is the same and one is always working on the fly. She also enjoys working with customers. After awhile, staff get to know all the clients and their individualized needs.

As I wrapped up my conversation with Dian, I asked two questions, for which she gave me the same answer: If you’re considering a field in the pet business, or even if you simply want to help improve the lives of companion animals, take an active role with your own pets. Ensure not only that you’re giving them the best care, but also that you’re enriching their lives with play and training time. In addition, volunteer with local rescues and/or shelters.

After almost thirty years in the pet business, Kenl Inn now has a staff of almost fifty. Most of the current staff have worked at Kenl Inn for more than two years and ten of the staff have worked at Kenl Inn for more than five years. Kenl Inn boards an average of 85 dogs per day throughout the year. There are 100 dog runs, 29 executive suites, and 18 cattery spaces. The boarding facility’s hours of operation are Monday to Saturday, 7am – 8pm, and Sundays and Holidays, 5pm – 8pm. In both 2014 and 2016, Kenl Inn was a recipient of Lincoln’s Choice Award for a local business.

As noted at the start, LAA Pet Talk is doing a series about local pet services. If you run a pet business and are interested in being featured, please let us know in the comments. We’ll follow up with a tour and an interview. Thanks to Kenl Inn for providing photographs and video.

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