GENESEE – When Tammy Thomason checks in the dogs at Silver Paws Lodge near Genesee, she remembers the children arriving at summer camp.
The animals are eager to play, especially with dogs they know from previous visits, said Thomason, the owner of the kennel in the scenic Palouse Hills.
“They are happy to see each other again,” she said. “It’s funny. They remember.
The joy dogs feel is exactly what Thomason hoped for in 2019 when she founded the company to improve work-life balance for her and her husband, Rollie Thomason.
She wanted an atmosphere the dogs would enjoy as much as the vacations their owners were taking that required them to leave their dogs behind.
It has also improved the quality of life for the Thomasons at Thornhollow Farm, where the kennel is located and where she raises registered Boer goats and rare chickens.
This provided him with enough income to quit his job as a real estate agent and devote himself full time to his animals.
Rollie, who recently resigned from the Lewiston Roundup Board after 10 years, comes home for lunch most days from his job as a risk adviser for Stonebraker McQuary in Genesee.
In the evenings, in warm weather, they often sit outside with their three standard poodles, a toy poodle, two livestock guard dogs and two horses.
“I think it’s pretty simple,” she said. “I don’t consider any part of this work. It’s all a way of life and we take full advantage of it. »
Others might consider it a back-breaking chore. Her workday begins at 6:30 a.m. when she lets the dogs out for their first bathroom break and doesn’t end until 9 p.m. when the dogs have been taken out for the last time that day.
The heated and air-conditioned kennel has 13 pitches of different sizes. Up to 20 dogs could be accommodated there at the busiest times. A number of families have more than one dog that stays together on large runs.
Between caring for the dogs, Tammy feeds the herd of 30 to 50 Boer goats and tends to the chickens, which are part of the National Poultry Improvement Program, which is inspected twice a year. The flock’s chicks and hatching eggs are shipped throughout the United States.
At the kennel, she lets the dogs play for about an hour after they have had lunch indoors or outdoors depending on the weather. Outside they have over a quarter acre for the dogs to romp around. Another game round takes place in the afternoon.
Small and large dogs are separated. Tammy oversees every minute, stepping in if a disagreement between the animals seems likely to escalate.
“I’ve never seen anyone so good with animals like her,” Rollie said. “I can walk into this and it’s almost like they had this conversation.”
One part of the kennel is set up as a family room with a couch, fireplace and TV. This is where Tammy fills out paperwork like bills, allowing the dogs to bask around her.
“A lot of people, their dogs are their family and…they wouldn’t take trips, so their personal life suffered, and now they say they’re perfectly comfortable leaving their dogs here,” he said. she stated.
On the weekends, the Thomasons stay on the farm, working together, from just after breakfast until late afternoon, cleaning up manure from the barns and doing other maintenance work.
“I love it there so much,” Rollie said. “It’s my free time even if you’re tired and sweaty and moving hay or building fences, but it’s relaxation for me.”
If they have more time, they put lunch in the cooler and take a ride in their side-by-side vehicle.
The contentment the Thomasons now have grew out of the stress Tammy had experienced trying to cope with increasingly divergent responsibilities as a realtor and on the farm.
She would point to a house and worry about needing to be on the farm, especially when the goats were about to give birth and might need help with deliveries.
“I was losing a passion for real estate,” she said. “My heart wasn’t completely in it. (I) would come home at night and complain to Rollie rather (than say) ‘Oh my God. You wouldn’t believe what just happened today. ”
The idea for the kennel surfaced during brainstorming sessions with one of Rollie’s sons and daughter-in-law, owner of Brie’sta cafes in Mountain Home, Idaho.
Within a day, Tammy had created a business plan with statistics on pet owners in Latah, Nez Perce and three neighboring counties, the number of them who house pets and the number of kennels in the area, Rollie said.
“She doesn’t do anything halfway,” he says. “You looked at the numbers and it was like she could work from home. It just made sense. She did wonders with it.
The Thomasons credit Tammy’s request and approach with allowing the kennel to thrive even though it was forced to temporarily close at the very onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020.
After opening the previous year, business at Silver Paws Lodge had grown so rapidly that it was full by March for spring break.
Then, gradually, Tammy started getting calls from customers canceling because the places they were hoping to travel to were closing. They finally decided to close for a few months and reopened in June.
“We bounced back very well,” she said.
There was a lingering effect. During the pandemic, many families have had puppies. Since they were working from home, they figured they would have plenty of time to acclimate and house the dogs.
A number of these dogs struggle with anxiety when left in the kennel. For the first few months of life, they were always with their family and didn’t learn how to interact with people or dogs outside of their home, Tammy said.
“It wasn’t intentional,” she said. “It was one of those things that nobody thought about.”
The pandemic has also shaped other aspects of the Thomasons’ lives. The Lewiston Roundup was suspended in 2020, for the second time since its founding in 1935.
Like the kennel, the event rallied for its 2021 return. When the rodeo last performed on Saturday night, a line of cars stretched from the Roundup Grounds to Lewiston an hour after the rodeo started.
“It was my favorite year in terms of rodeo,” Rollie said. “The crowds were crazy. They were happy to get it back. »
Going forward, the Thomasons want to continue building on what they have created. This year they would like to hire enough help for the kennel so that they can keep it open for the few times they travel instead of closing it.
“I would love to drive across the United States and stay off the highways the whole way,” Rollie said. “You can see things that most people don’t see because they’re doing 80 miles per hour.”
Job Title: Owner of Silver Paws Lodge and Thornhollow Farm near Genesee.
Education: Graduated from Coeur d’Alene High School and earned an associate’s degree from Lewis-Clark State College.
Career: Was a realtor in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley for 14 years. Has also bred golden retrievers and cocker spaniels, been a veterinary technician and animal groomer.
Job Title: Risk Manager for Stonebraker McQuary Insurance.
Education: Graduated from Highland High School in Craigmont and a business degree from Lewis-Clark State College.
Professional background: Has worked in insurance since 1988.
Civic engagement: Former director of the Lewiston Roundup. Announces the Craigmont June Picnic Parade each year with his father. Announcing other activities, such as the Lewiston Veterans Parade this year.
The Thomasons are married and have four adult children from Rollie’s previous marriage.
“A lot of people, their dogs are their family and…they wouldn’t take trips, so their personal lives suffered, and now they say they’re perfectly comfortable leaving their dogs here.”
Tammy Thomason, owner of Silver Paws Lodge kennel
“I love it there so much. It’s my free time, even if you’re tired and sweaty and moving hay or building fences, but it’s relaxing for me.
Rollie Thomason, describing his weekends at Thornhollow Farm