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Canal Bark in Duluth caters to pets

Andrea Schokker, co-owner of Canal Bark, stands in the retail area of the new business, which will open today. Canal Bark offers dog grooming, day care and boarding. ( Bob King / / 5
Gwen, a Jack Russell terrier belonging to Brenda Olson, co-owner of Canal Bark, is jokingly referred to as Canal Bark’s assistant manager. (Bob King / / 5
Employees Greg Purcell (left) and Carmen Matile assemble office furniture and a dog-grooming stand at Canal Bark earlier this week. (Bob King / / 5
The new Canal Bark, which offers a pet store, dog and cat day care, grooming and boarding, opens today. (Bob King / / 5
Canal Bark has two different sizes of kitty condos, one for individual cats and one for families. (Bob King / / 5

A Duluth vacation isn’t just for humans anymore.

Thanks to Canal Bark, a new boarding center for cats and dogs, the city’s pets also can find their home away from home. Set to open to the public today, the center, on Airpark Boulevard, aims to offer a variety of goods and services for pet owners.

“You can come in and board, do day camp, buy stuff for your dog,” co-owner Andrea Schokker said. “It has all the services in one place as a one-stop.”

Canal Bark is set up like any human hotel. Boarders will check in at the front desk before dogs and cats are taken to their “rooms,” large individuals kennels that include raised beds for dogs and an attached “bathroom” for cats.

Pet parents can pay extra for their dogs to visit the spa and be washed and groomed. If a dog stays at Canal Bark for a week or more, grooming is no extra charge.

“We’ll have stations here just like you’d have at a beauty salon,” Schokker said. “It’s basically going to be a spa. I wasn’t sure if Duluth would be ready for a dog spa, but that’s kind of the idea.”

Dogs also can come in for “day camp,” Canal Bark’s version of doggy day care. The dogs will be separated by size and temperament, and a staff member will be on hand 24/7.

Schokker and her business partner, Brenda Olson, decided to open Canal Bark so they could be around animals more often. Both already have dog-rich lives; Schokker shows Norwegian elkhounds, and Olson jokingly calls her Jack Russell terrier, Gwen, the assistant manager.

“We’ve always had dogs in our lives,” Olson said. “We wanted to do something that we enjoyed doing … for a career it’s not work if you’re having fun.”

Twenty-four dogs and 18 cats will be able to board at Canal Bark, and the day care has a capacity of 20 dogs. Each dog will get individual attention, Olson said.

“The comfort and safety of the animals is our priority,” Olson said. “We like to give a lot of one-to-one attention. Whatever they need, we want to be able to give them.”

The retail section of Canal Bark also features natural dog foods and treats from local companies. The cat litter is wheat-based and all natural.

Olson and Schokker saw a need for a facility like Canal Bark in Duluth. Because the city is growing, Olson said, people want the same amenities the Twin Cities offers.

“We’re getting a lot of people from other parts of the country or state that are moving to Duluth for work,” Olson said. “They’re used to having these facilities that they have in the Cities, and there just doesn’t seem to be one that does all of this.”

The retail section of Canal Bark already is open. The rest of the facility will be open to the public during the facility’s open house today.

Olson has one promise for pet parents thinking about boarding their animals: “If you bring your dogs and cats we will treat them like they they’re our own,” she said.