By JAMIE PARSELL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Ten years ago, Daniel Smoak, 49, canceled his vacation — a cruise, which was already paid for — at the last minute. Why? He couldn’t find anyone to watch his pets while he was out of town.
So when he moved to southern West Virginia two years ago, he decided to open a business that would cater to local animal lovers. Bark! is a pet care service that offers owners a variety of services including overnight pet sitting, doggy day care, dog walks, a pet taxi and more. His business welcomes both dogs and cats.
Smoak started the business because of his love for animals.
“I have always keep my friends’ animals when they traveled and when I traveled, I didn’t want to leave my animals in a kennel. I thought there were enough people that felt that way,” he said.
Smoak said his service is unique because he is fully insured and bonded. His insurance covers up to five overnight animals and 10 day animals at a time.
He said the insurance protects against everything from dog bites to ruined carpet.
During the day, Smoak makes daily visits to the owners’ homes when they are out of town. He also runs a day care for owners who work long hours.
Smoak has even stayed the night in an owner’s home before. If he takes them to his house, the client’s pets are treated like family. His services can be customized to the client and their animal.
“I have a big, fenced-in back yard and a doggie door. I try to keep their (the animals) routine the same as they are accustomed too,” he said.
The pet taxi will take dogs and cats to the groomers or the vets for owners who are at work.
And he is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
His job bring him joy, he said. He isn’t just taking care of animals, he is spoiling them, just like they are his own.
Neighbor Skip Crane said he has never seen a person love animals more than Smoak.
“He has the heart for them,” said Crane. “He even makes report cards for owners, just like a school teacher.”
Crane said it is a valuable service for the area.
Client Amy Alvis, of Princeton, has received several of those report cards for her pets Quincy and Parker, both German short-haired pointers. Alvis is always impressed by the details.
“I have never seen anything like it,” she said. “It is better than what you get from the school. You know, if he checked the card, then he is paying attention to your animal.”
Alvis and her husband said Smoat’s services are one-of-a-kind.
“Our dogs are put up late at night ... so he comes at 11 p.m. or midnight ... he is extremely accommodating.”
Alvis calls Bark! at least once a month, maybe more. The mother of two small children said she also appreciates photos. Smoak snaps pictures of pets and sends them to owners on their mobiles.
“He is just fabulous. We are really blessed to have him,” she added.
Smoat’s clients range from in age — from early 20s to late 70s.
“The common thread is that they are animal lovers and they want someone to take care of their animals like they take care of them,” Smoak said.
He has yet to receive any negative comments about his occupation of choice. Most people, he said, are thrilled to discover the service.
Bark! has been in business since January of 2012. However, he wants to expand his services.
“I wouldn’t mind starting a chain and having the business in other areas,” he said.
He has another idea too.
“I would love to bring a dog walking park to this area and the community,” he said.
He envisions a fenced-in park with water foundations, and perhaps, even a place for dog walking trails.
So far, he only been asked to take care of dogs and cats. But if a customer has an unusual pet, Smoat said it wouldn’t matter.
“I have never met a dog that I was afraid of,” he added. “I just love animals.”
Friends tell him he has the ability to communicate with animals on a different level. Smoat said he never wanted to be a veterinarian. He can’t stand to see dogs hurt or sick.
“I wanted to create a business where I could help home owners and their pets,” he added.
Smoat can be reached at 865-216-3290.
Jamie Parsell can be reached at email@example.com.