Friday, September 26, 2014

At Your Own Risk: Deerfield Dog Lodging Broke Our Dog!

The Good: Facility appeared clean and spacious
The Bad: Myah was returned to us with wounds, Owner of facility was unobservant/neglectful/failed to inform, Promised services were not provided.
The Basics: While my wife and I were on vacation, we left Myah at Deerfield Dog Lodging in Traverse City, Michigan . . . and when we recovered her, it was evident that she had not been treated well there.

For those who are unfamiliar with my reviews, I object entirely to the type of reviews that are a rant on a single experience with a product and service. I reject “reviews” that are essentially customer service complaints that clog up the Internet. When it comes to my pet reviews, I pride myself on offering authentic reviews from the perspective of a layperson. I am not the pet expert in my family, so I rely upon stated guidelines for a product in combination with the reactions of my animals to determine a product or service’s worth. Today, I find myself starting the travel reviews from my last vacation (my first in years!) with a review of the facility at which we left Myah, our Siberian Husky.

For those who might not follow my many pet product reviews, Myah is a Siberian Husky, who will turn seven years old on November 27th of this year. She has been in our family for almost three years and she and I have been virtually inseparable in that time. In fact, when my wife moved to Michigan and I stayed in New York, my job was changed so I could bring Myah into work with me, because she was so unused to being left alone.

So, when my wife and I decided to go on vacation for a little over a week, boarding Myah was a big concern for us. While my wife was happy to bring Myah along with us (which, given the volume of things we brought back from the trip would have been a bad idea with our small car!), I was concerned that if we left Myah in a hotel room while we went out and did stuff, she would scratch and damage the room. There was a compromise position; to take Myah with us and enroll her in day care while we were in Minneapolis, but the facilities we found there that did that (including a very cool one that had webcams in which we could see how wonderfully the animals were being treated) required registration in advance. So, we started calling around locally. That process was frustrating, especially when the facility that looked best and most like a resort for dogs was closed for the months between Labor Day and Thanksgiving. My wife found Deerfield Dog Lodging in Traverse City and it seemed like a godsend initially: the owner of the facility, Kevin Ramoie actually answered the telephone and answered all of her questions. It’s amazing how far simple responsiveness goes in forming a new relationship with a business. In retrospect, perhaps Mr. Ramoie was able to spend so much time on the phone with my wife because he was not actually actively taking care of the animals in his care!


Deerfield Dog Lodging is a seemingly spacious facility located at 3435 Beitner Road on the outskirts of Traverse City, Michigan. The facility looks like a ranch-style house set on multiple acres of fields. There are at least six fenced-in kennels in what looked like a converted garage. Each of the kennels has a door to the outside, where the dogs have access to a private area and then a communal fenced-in area where dogs may (presumably) interact. In the main kennel area (the converted garage) there was obvious drainage and the facility looked very clean when we dropped Myah off.


Deerfield Dog Lodging was billed as a clean and friendly dog and cat care facility. Their website boasts that “. . . your dog or cat's comfort and safety is our number one priority. When your pet checks in at Deerfield, you can leave with the peace of mind knowing that they will be well cared for and treated with kindness.” We were swayed by the positive reviews we read beforehand and the fact that for only $5 more per day, Myah would be given a daily Wilderness Walk. Despite the website advertising that pets boarded at Deerfield Dog Lodging get plenty of exercise and receive lots of love, we enthusiastically shelled out the additional five dollars a day for the Wilderness Walk so we could be certain that Myah was well-cared for while there and exercised more than just in the fenced-in yard we saw online.

We brought Myah to Deerfield Dog Lodging at 8 A.M. on Monday, September 15, 2014 having made an appointment with Mr. Ramoie for Myah to stay at the facility until Tuesday, September 23, 2014. With Myah, we brought two tubs of her dog food and a toy she enjoys playing with. After filling out paperwork and directing the worker at Deerfield Dog Lodging (who was not Mr. Ramoie) with feeding instructions for Myah, we left Myah at the facility.

At approximately 10:20 A.M. on Tuesday, September 23, 2014, we arrived back at Deerfield Dog Lodging to pick Myah up. We were greeted by Mr. Ramoie, who seemed to know we were there to pick Myah up (despite us being a bit early).

Effect On Myah


Deerfield Dog Lodging had a profound effect on Myah and the results of her stay there are troubling. The way Mr. Ramoie runs Deerfield Dog Lodging is disturbing and it has left Myah (literally) scarred.

My first clue that something was wrong with Myah and her stay at Deerfield Dog Lodging came when we picked Myah up on Tuesday. Myah is an exceptionally enthusiastic dog and she is not a fan of being separated from me. For the last ten months of my last job, when I would return home, Myah would wait for me around the time I usually came home and my wife reported how Myah would come running to the top of our stairs the moment she heard our car pull into the driveway. We had been told that Myah would have access to her outdoor area adjacent to her personal kennel; I thought it was strange that when we pulled into Deerfield Dog Lodging on Tuesday morning that Myah did not come running outside to see us. After all, she knows what our car sounds like and we parked much closer to her when we arrived than I do at home, so she should have recognized that sound. When we got out of the car, my wife called to Myah and Myah did not come out of her kennel, nor did she make her customary bark or howl to greet us.

While I stood in the waiting room writing out the check, my wife went to recover Myah from the kennel area of Deerfield Dog Lodging. When she was released from the kennel, Myah exhibited little enthusiasm to see us; in fact, she cowered upon seeing my wife and I, which was entirely atypical behavior for her. Outside the first week we had Myah after rescuing her, she has not been handshy. She flinched from my wife when she tried to connect her to her leash.

While we walked Myah out to the front of Deerfield Dog Lodging, we noticed a large lesion on Myah's left forepaw. The open wound was immediately noticeable and my wife asked Mr. Ramoie what had happened to Myah. Mr. Ramoie claimed to have no idea what was wrong with Myah and stated that he had never seen the wound on Myah. Mr. Ramoie returned one tub of Myah's food (half empty) and the empty tub to us before we left.

We immediately took Myah back to our veterinarian. One of the most useful aspects of our boarding Myah was that before she went, we had to take her to the veterinarian to get her immunized and licensed. We took Myah to the veterinarian on September 9, 2014 for the immunizations she would need in order to have an extended stay at the Deerfield Dog Lodging. At that time, our Siberian Husky was deemed in good health and was weighed at 68.8 pounds. Between her first visit and when we dropped her off at Deerfield Dog Lodging on September 15, Myah was carefully monitored and lovingly cared for, as she normally is. Myah was brought to the same veterinarian on Tuesday, September 23, before we even went home. As a result of the veterinarian's examination, we have come to believe that Myah was, at best, neglected during her stay at Deerfield Dog Lodging and that it is entirely possible that she was the victim of abuse during her stay there.

1. Myah's injuries. Myah had an Acral Lick Granuloma on her left forepaw that was severe and infected. The Acral Lick Granuloma on the left forepaw was over 1/2" in diameter (that is a red and yellow, puss-filled open wound about the size and shape of a dime set against the otherwise white paw of the dog). Myah had three other, smaller, less-severe Acral Lick Granulomas on her right forepaw and both back feet. Our veterinarian and the technicians at the animal hospital were alarmed by the wounds and stated that: a. Such wounds did not happen fast (it would have taken Myah days to make the wounds, especially the primary one), b. Such wounds should have been immediately evident to any caregiver, and c. Such wounds would most likely have occurred in an environment where Myah was neglected (i.e. if she was active, engaged and well-monitored she would not have had time or impetus to make such wounds),

 photo myahwound1_zpsbde0abce.jpg
 photo myahwound2_zps6d06142f.jpg
Can you imagine not noticing that if you had frequent, daily contact with your animal?!

2. Myah's feeding. Myah lost approximately eight pounds during the course of her seven day stay at Deerfield Dog Lodging. Weighed immediately upon reaching the veterinary office, Myah weighed 61 pounds on September 23, 2014. The veterinary technician and veterinarian were alarmed that Myah would lose more than 10% of her weight over the course of her stay at Deerfield Dog Lodging. Questioned on Wednesday, September 24, 2014, Mr. Ramoie provided inconsistent and contradictory information in regard to Myah's feeding. When asked if Myah was fed according the instructions we left her with (1 1/2 cups of her food, twice per day), Mr. Ramoie claimed that those directions were followed. Pressed with information that Myah had lost 7.8 pounds over the course of her stay, Mr. Ramoie revised his answer to say that Myah: a. Occasionally poured some of her food out of her bowl and b. Mostly ate her meals at night. Either way, Myah should not have lost so much weight. Moreover, if she alone was fed her food, there should have been quite a bit more of her food left (measuring her food at 1 1/2 cups, 2 such feedings per day, only ONE of the two tubs of food would have been consumed; there should have been no food missing from the second tub, much less half of the food missing from that tub),

3. Exercising Myah. One of the appeals of Deerfield Dog Lodging for us was that for $5/day, Myah would be given a walk each day of her stay. We paid for that service. When questioned on the telephone on Wednesday, September 24, Mr. Ramoie claimed that Myah had been given the promised walks. However, several red flags were immediately raised with his claim that Myah had been exercised daily during her stay. First, Mr. Ramoie claimed that Myah tugged a bit during her walks, implying that she was rushing ahead of whomever was walking her. Curious about that, because that is unlike her, I pressed for more information and Mr. Ramoie stated that Myah had to be pulled along during her walks because she was eager to stop and smell everything (which does sound like Myah's behavior during exercising). Mr. Ramoie was unable to elaborate on how Myah was motivated to move back to walking when she wanted to stop and smell everything around her. Either way, Mr. Ramoie asserted that Myah was walked each day for a half hour walk to a nearby pond and back. The reason this assertion is suspect is simple; on the morning of Wednesday, September 24, 2014, when I took Myah for a morning walk, she did not make it more than five minutes out our door before she started whining, limping, and refusing to walk farther (which is very atypical for her). If Myah was truly used to walking as she had been before we left her at Deerfield and during her stay, there is no reason she would have been unable to walk upon her return (especially without a limp!).

Myah has exhibited several signs of trauma, from being hoarse to the large Acral Lick Granuloma, since we picked her up from Deerfield Dog Lodging.


We paid Mr. Kevin Ramoie and Deerfield Dog Lodging $240 for her stay, with exercise, for a stay from Monday, September 15, 2014 to Tuesday, September 23, 2014. Following her stay, we had to spend an additional $86.71 for the veterinarian examination, antibiotics and steroids needed to diagnose and treat the wounds Myah inflicted upon herself while there.

Upon learning the severity of the wounds to Myah and that the most probable cause for such wounds was severe neglect by Deerfield Dog Lodging, I called Mr. Ramoie on the morning of Wednesday, September 24, 2014. Mr. Ramoie called back within a few minutes. After requesting that Mr. Ramoie mail back Myah's paperwork, which we neglected to take the prior day, I began to ask Mr. Ramoie about Myah's stay. Mr. Ramoie had no explanation for: a. not noticing the large Acral Lick Granuloma, b. how Myah had lost 7.8 pounds over the course of her stay, c. how so much more of Myah's food was missing than would have been appropriate if it had been properly measured out for her, d. why Myah would be unable to walk more than five minutes comfortably after her stay (while asserting that she had effortlessly walked half an hour each day while under his care). The “insult to injury” aspect of this is the way Mr. Ramoie approached the problems we were able to clearly and methodically illustrate to him. He claimed not to notice the Acral Lick Granuloma, which seems virtually impossible given its size and placement. His blasé retort that “dogs will lick, what am I supposed to do about it?!” is especially horrifying considering that Myah does not lick excessively when she is given attention and that I had to sign a form making me liable for any veterinary treatment Myah might require during her stay. In other words, if Mr. Ramoie and his staff had paid adequate attention to Myah and noticed her licking excessively and the formation of the Acral Lick Granulomas, they could have (and should have!) taken her to a vet to learn exactly what needed to be done to prevent her from making the wounds more severe!

With all of the contradictory information being given to us by our veterinarian and Deerfield Dog Lodging, it is hard for us to not feel like Deerfield Dog Lodging and Mr. Ramoie are more interested in protecting their business than actually caring for animals. Our veterinarian stated fairly emphatically that the weight loss and wounds Myah exhibited could not have occurred in an environment where she was properly cared for. Our veterinarian said that the only way Myah could have lost the weight she did while being properly fed was if she exercised (paced) constantly during her stay with Deerfield Dog Lodging. The assertion that Myah lost weight from constant exercise was directly contradicted by the presence of the Acral Lick Granulomas. The Acral Lick Granulomas could only have been formed by Myah’s near-constant licking.

Basic logic, then follows: We have the severe Acral Lick Granuloma (and three minor ones). Acral Lick Granulomas are caused by constant licking. If Myah was licking that constantly, then she was not eating, running around or active. The only logical conclusion (considering that Myah was not infested with any parasite) is that Myah lost more than 10% of her body weight over the course of her stay at Deerfield Dog Lodging because she was not adequately fed while there.

Regardless of our veterinarian being unwilling to make a statement alleging neglect or abuse, our veterinarian, the veterinary technicians and other workers at our animal hospital were all very interested in where Myah had been to incur such injuries and all seemed eager to make certain that none of their animal patients were ever sent there. That indicates a de facto understanding that Deerfield Dog Lodging was responsible for the weight loss and development of severe acral lick granulomas. Moreover, Mr. Ramoie and his staff were negligent for neither noticing nor contacting us about such wounds (if they were competently observing that Myah was agitated, she would have been treated and we would have been notified long before the primary Acral Lick Granuloma was formed).

Such neglect and/or mistreatment of animals should not go unpunished. I pride myself on giving fair ratings and I tend to reserve a zero out of ten rating for the worst possible, most unredeemable products or services (like a movie that was not just bad, but caused physical discomfort to watch). While Deerfield Dog Lodging might seem to have a facility that is adequate (or better) for pets, the service one is paying for at such a facility is actual care. None was evident (and, in fact, the opposite is more evident!) from Myah’s stay at Deerfield Dog Lodging. No one should pay a facility for such a lack of proper care when proper feeding, lodging, exercise and monitoring is what Deerfield Dog Lodging was commissioned to provide.

For other products that Myah has helped to review, please be sure to check out our reviews of:
Meaty Bone Dog Treats
American Kennel Club Pet Bed
Cesar Canine Cuisine Filet Mignon Dog Food


For other Pet or Travel reviews, please check out my Pet Review Index Page and my Travel Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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