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A howling good time

When Gypsy wakes up in the morning, she pads across the heated floor of her hotel room and heads outside for a quick stretch. Then she heads back in and lounges on her raised bed for a while.

When Gypsy wakes up in the morning, she pads across the heated floor of her hotel room and heads outside for a quick stretch.

Then she heads back in and lounges on her raised bed for a while. Later, she might go for a run through the snow.

She misses her family, sure. But she also has a heated floor. And snow to run through. And kibble. Things could be worse.

Gypsy is the inaugural guest at the Tails and Trails Dog Hotel, Whitehorse’s latest luxury dog accommodations. And since she has the place to herself, she gets a lot of one-on-one attention from the hotel’s owner, Peter Harms.

“The personalized service is what people are looking for more so than just four walls and a cage,” Harms said. “These are no longer simply family pets. These are family members.”

And this is not simply a kennel. When it’s finished, Tails and Trails will have 24 doggie suites, each with a glass-paned door and a window to the outside. Each room has its own doggie door that opens onto an individual open-air run, so nervous guests can spend time outside without having to play with the others.

There are also two larger corrals where the visitors can mingle, run and… sniff each other, presumably.

And yes, the floors are heated.

Harms’ hotel has been a long time in the making. He started construction back in the spring of 2014, and he’s still only finished half of the rooms. He’s out of money at the moment, and he’s hoping to attract some business so he can finish the rest.

And there are some things that haven’t quite been worked out yet. The centre part of the hotel is two storeys high, because Harms decided a single-storey building would be ugly. But he hasn’t quite decided what to do with the second floor yet. It might be an indoor playroom for the smaller dogs, or it might be a grooming salon.

Even the hotel’s name is subject to change. As upscale pet housing becomes more and more popular Outside, unique names are getting harder to come by. There’s already a Tails & Trails Country Pet Resort in Ontario.

Still, a dog hotel seems like a good fit for Harms, who readily admits that he “never grew up.”

He’s in the process of retiring after 35 years as an elementary school teacher and a coach. In fact, one of his sports teams - the Hidden Valley Huskies - tested out the doggie digs before the official opening.

Harms said the 20 kids spent a night at the hotel recently, with up to six kids squeezing into a single room.

“How many times are you going to get a sleepover in a dog hotel?” he joked.

And once Harms finishes the construction, that’s when the fun will really start. Harms lights up when he talks about making this dog hotel into more of a doggie camp.

He’s got a lot of plans. He’s hoping to collect some discarded playground equipment from local schools and fashion it into a doggie playground, complete with a little doggie slide. He’s already dug a trench behind the hotel that will act as a tunnel for the dogs to play in, and plans to build a bridge over it.

And he wants to keep the dogs happy when they’re indoors, too. He’s bought a dozen computer monitors, and he wants to set them up in the dogs’ rooms and screen a Yukon version of the fireplace channel. Instead of a brick fireplace, he wants to film a campfire out by Lake Laberge. Instead of a hand adding logs periodically, he’d like to have the odd squirrel running by.

But for the moment, that particular plan is on hold.

“I have all those TV monitors and it’s wired for it, but… the chief executive officer of Tails and Trails (his wife) has vetoed it,” he said with a smile.

His wife is also unaware that he’s hiding an enormous satellite dish in the bush somewhere nearby. He found it while driving past a junk pile, and thought it would make the perfect doggie fountain. He wants to install a fire hydrant in the middle of the dish, he said, that would spray out water over the dogs.

“This is a dog’s dream,” he said. “So I’ve got that hidden in the bush. Eventually, I will have my beautiful fountain.”

His wife might have other ideas. After all, she didn’t let him build the zipline he envisioned for their own backyard when the kids were growing up.

But Harms doesn’t seem that concerned about whether all of his plans come to fruition. For him, this is as much about playing as anything else.

“I never got tired of playing,” he said. “The playing has never stopped.”

The Tails and Trails Dog Hotel can be reached at 867-333-5501. Doggie accommodations cost $24/night.

Contact Maura Forrest at