“With the right clothes and happy dogs, you can go just about anywhere.”
The Tassa Tryggt dog daycare center in Älta/Nacka has been around for 25 years and every day 50 dogs visit Anneli and her colleagues. "It’s such a luxury to feel happy when you wake up in the morning and know you’re going to work. Who else feels that way?" Being able to spend wonderful days outdoors in nature is a luxury that few people enjoy.
Anneli has always had animals around her and the dream of running a doggy daycare became a reality in 1998, when it was still called Maggie's Farm. "It’s crazy that it’s been 25 years since I stood there with our first two daycare dogs Campi and Ellie! Over the years, we’ve gotten to know such amazing characters — both dogs and dog owners." Running a doggy daycare requires training°and a permit. She has attended many seminars and courses, and is trained as a behaviorist and First Aid specialist for dogs.
For almost 25 years, Anneli has been doggy daycare manager, and now is also the owner
She recounts her first dog memory, a story about an Oksido German Shepherd puppy. "Oksido lived at the home of my daycare teacher's house. He was a rescue dog and was meant to be trained as a police dog. But he was far too good on the tests that were carried out, so he became a trained guide dog instead." She describes how the puppy brightened their days at the kindergarden teacher's house with walks, tricks and picnics in the garden. “When we had a picnic, the cat and the turtle that lived there also joined in.” It is clear that it is a fond memory that hasn't faded over the years.
"The times when I had a babysitter for my daughter at the kennel when I had to go out with a dog group, Akela refused to come along and stayed at home to watch Linnéa. Akela probably didn't understand at all how I could leave my daughter there."
When Anneli had her first child, her daughter Linnéa, she had a German Shepherd called Akela. Akela took her "sisterhood" very seriously and never left Linnéa’s side. "Akela kept an eye on everything, informed me when Linnéa woke up in the morning, picked up pacifiers and toys. When Linnéa started walking, Akela was there every step of the way. It was wonderful to see the connection they had right from the start. I was later told that the name Akela was the name of the wolf that took care of the “human puppy” Mowgli (from The Jungle Book). It fit very well." Anneli goes on to say that Akela probably thought that she herself was a more suitable mother than Anneli. "The times when I had a babysitter for my daughter at the kennel and I had to go out with a dog group, Akela refused to come along and stayed at home to look after Linnéa. I don't think she understood at all how I could leave my daughter there."
Akela on the left and Amiga on the right. Linnéa’s constant companions.
The Kennel — A Place of Harmony
It’s quiet in the 3,200-square-feet kennel. It is impossible to believe that there are 50 dogs here. "Yes, there are! Everyone is here, but a few of our priorities are safety, calmness and harmony." Anneli, doggy daycare manager, explains. It’s clear that peace and quiet touch every dog. Dogs come in all sizes and sleep on various beds, sofas and, some, under blankets. A few tired dog eyes peek up and wonder who is visiting. "We’re often told that we have such harmony in our kennel, that it's difficult to believe that there are so many dogs here. That’s exactly how we want it!". The old building used to be a stable for horses, and 14 years ago an extension was added for dogs. There are 23 dog-sized stalls on two floors.
Down the hall is a large whiteboard with small magnetic labels on it, one for each dog. Some dogs have dots with different colors next to their name. “This is a code system we have to know which dogs should be given medication, if there is a female in heat, food preferences, etc.” The dogs are divided into different groups for the day's walk, so it's strikingly similar to a preschool for human children.
A brown Labrador, walking past, paws and gently grasps Anneli’s arm. "Haha, this is Scout. We call him 'Velcro' as he has the ability to catch everything in his mouth. An elbow, a hand, an arm or a light chew on a rear end that passes him. He does it with love, but it’s rare to get past without getting caught in the velcro first."°
No one can escape the Scout Velcro
A day at doggy daycare
The autumn air has taken hold of the Erstavik nature reserve southeast of Stockholm. Some would say finally, others wouldn't. The American journalist Jim Bishop once said thatAutumn carries more gold in its pocket than any other season. We can all agree on this.
Autumn carries more gold in its pocket than any other season.
Erstaviksfälten (Erstavik fields) in Älta
Along the long dirt road that divides the large Erstavik field in two, 25 dogs come trotting along with their humans Anneli, Malin, Linnéa, Emma and Andreas. The same calmness prevails as in the kennel stalls. The dogs walk in their well-planned groups; they're dogs that have roughly the same tempo and that work well together. Each dog should receive both the activity and attention it needs, which is why the groups are relatively small per staff. "We think that five dogs per person is just right. This provides security for both dog and handler. We walk with two groups a day, so there’s plenty of exercise. We walk between 9 – 12 miles a day".
Suddenly, a white-gray little rascal appears and gives love in a classic doggy fashion; A few quick swipes at the photographer’s ear before Emma has time to stop her. This is Towa, a Dutch sheepdog of the Schapendoes breed.
The doggy daycare center opens at 7 am, when the owners themselves go in and leave their dogs in their stalls. "We are quite different from other doggy daycares in this particular way. I want our dog owners to have insight into how their dog is doing in the daycare, so all dog owners are welcome to come in and drop off/pick up their dog in the stall. This way, they can say goodbye to each other in peace and quiet before their days go on in separate directions."°
In the morning, all the dogs have longer walks; when one group comes back, another goes out, and so on. During the summer months, the dogs are also in the dog parks when they're not out on walks. The staff who stay behind change the water, prepare the dogs’ lunch, give any medicines, tidy up, cut claws, etc. In the afternoon, there are walks again before the dogs are picked up one by one.
“With the right clothes and happy dogs, you can go just about anywhere.”
To get the most out of a day in the woods with your dogs, you need clothes and shoes that can withstand all kinds of weather. "We spend 5 – 6 hours in the forest every day. Having comfortable clothes that can withstand tougher weather — every day — is important to us! We enjoy walking in diverse forests and following narrow paths in sometimes quite rugged terrain, so clothing must be able to withstand both damp tall grass and branches. With the right clothes and happy dogs, you can go just about anywhere. It bears repeating, but we enjoy our jobs! "
When a day at doggy daycare is over, the evening continues for Anneli in the next barn, the horse stable. She also provides shelter for homeless rats and rabbits that have either been found outdoors or taken into care by the County Administrative Board. "The associations I help and support are called Rat Help and Small Animal Chance. They do a magical job!" So there’s no doubt about what Anneli’s calling in life is.
Andreas with Tezla, a Labrador retriever
Emma with June, a Poodle
Linnéa with Pella, a Cocker/Poodle mix, and Valentino, a Pomeranian
Malin with Griffin, Sally and Lexi