This article was printed in the April 29, 2005 issue of the Telluride Watch


It's a Dog's Life at Wash-N-WatchDogs

"Wash-N-WatchDogs" doesn't begin to describe Dan Koon and Lane Conrad's canine boarding and training set-up in San Miguel County's Dry Creek Basin. If your pet is extremely fortunate, while you're away, Mr. or Ms. Canine can luxuriate in, as WWD's business card notes: "No-Cage Boarding in our Country Home." Part spa, part "summer camp for dogs," as one wag (oops) put it, Dan and Lane's expert hospitality could be every dog's dream vacation.

And at $22 a day, Telluride's dogs are terrific for business at Wash-N-WatchDogs. On a recent sunny Sunday afternoon, when Steve and I stopped by, Lane and Dan were playing host to some thirty, mostly Telluride dogs. That was down from 37 critters just a few days before. Lane, a robust woman with a big smile and a voice to match, allowed that "about April 1, when Telluride's spring break comes around - kaboom! - it hits!"

Right off, we'd found Lane out front under a tree, blow-drying a big, brown chocolate Lab who, as we approached, suddenly turned skittish. "Molly! Sit! Whoa, don't mess with me, I've had a long day and I'm tired." Lane says - very firmly. A pause, then "There. Thank you." Lane's voice, at first as stern as a drill sergeant's, has turned all soft and silky.

The WWD complex, partly shielded by a tall, rough-slab stockade fence, consists of two big house trailers joined together forming a "T." As we enter, Lane brushes aside a swarm of dogs, mostly big ones. Three very large and attentive beige and brown hounds sit comfortably on a sofa that's covered by a bright, multi-colored quilt. Dog beds and cushions consume most of the floor and dogs seem to fill this otherwise cozy living room. Most are big dogs - all shades. As the dogs crowd around Lane, the few small dogs struggle to be seen - and recognized. "Java," who is San Miguel County Judge Sharon Shuteran's big black beauty, pushes ahead for the first pat.

Amazingly, Lane calls each dog by name. There are perhaps 10 very alert dogs in this small room and there's not one bark. Not one snort, or cough, or whine. It's as if they've all gone mute. Both inside and outside it's quiet. And Lane and Dan make sure it stays that way. Gates separate each section of the house. Lane leads us through a maze of barriers and corridors to view a large fenced-in side yard - which is also full of dogs. Oh, ho! A playground, with what could easily be circus equipment. Lane says something, and in no time dogs - in a follow-the-leader configuration - are climbing a ladder that leads to a high, padded platform. Crossing to the other side, in orderly fashion, the dogs - big and not so big - deftly descent a slide on the opposite side.

And what dog could resist the very long culvert pipe that lies diagonally across the play yard? The mix of toys and equipment provides both fun and "agility training" for their guests, Lane explains. Her enthusiasm seems limitless. Dan joined us in the kitchen - a "dog-free zone." By name, one at a time, several dogs are invited to cross the DMZ into the kitchen. Dan and Lane raise and breed rare European hunting hounds - "Bracco Italianos." The breed is "very chill and laid-back" indoors, but outside they're outstanding hunters, says Dan. He's always raised hunters, and has always "had a thing for unusual dogs."

Lane and Dan fly to Europe soon, to pick up their newest Bracco pup. Dan has the sturdy build of a retired wrestler, and a big voice to match. In an upbeat duet, they take turns explaining why Braccos are both rare and special. Braccos "are not over-bred." Unlike many other pedigreed dogs, Bracco breeders are careful to avoid passing along genetic disorders that plague some popular breeds. "We raise our puppies in here," says Lane - personal care that promotes their naturally "kind, sweet, docile" disposition. The price per pup is $2,500. It's a tribute to Lane and Dan's expertise that their breeding dogs mix comfortable with WWD's canine boarders - all of whom must be both neutered and very well-behaved. WWD's services include "K-9 Obedience and Behavior Training" with "Pickup/Delivery" available, according to their eye-catching business card, which features a handsome color photo of their four big Braccos.

Some special karma was at work when a singles ad in "Jan's Hoofbeats and Heart Beats" brought this pair together about seven years ago. Dry Creek Basin, in San Miguel County's actual "west end," is just that - a dry, hardscrabble stretch on the road to somewhere else. The Basin's been home to several generations of Koons, but Lane, who came from scenic spots like New Hampshire and more recently Montana, found the Basin, well, stark.

But their shared interests - their expertise with dogs, along with outdoor recreation - clicked. Married for six years, Lane and Dan, both smart, high-energy, 40-something doers, are a winning combination. Lane says she finds Dry Creek Basin's "individual feel" much to her liking. The business they've created is thriving, and the location is, of course, ideal. Dan is a self-taught computer buff: Wash-N-WatchDogs has a website and will soon have a very uptown Internet web-cam set-up. This means lonesome dog owners can dial-up live views of their pets - enjoying life in doggie paradise.

Reprinted with the gracious permission of author, Grace Herndon