Two Miami dog lovers create the Barkhaus, a homemade dog park, boarding place

05/15/2014 3:11 PM

05/15/2014 4:51 PM

At the corner of Northeast Fourth Court and 74th Street stands a cream-colored cinder-block home like many you would see in Miami. Its backyard is surrounded by palms, plants and flowers.

But if you walk past the ‘beware of dog” signs and past the bamboo fence, you step into a 7,500-square-foot homemade dog park, a hidden gem in South Florida pet care: the Barkhaus.

The brainchild of Andres Monasterios, 30, and Natalie Sanchez, 28, Barkhaus is trying to change the way South Floridians board, train and take care of their dogs. In business for a year, the Barkhaus started out as a hobby, with the couple taking care of their friends’ and family’s pets.

“These dogs are our family. We know everything about these dogs, they’re here so regularly,” said Monasterios. “I love waking up every day to a ton of dogs. It doesn’t feel like work; it’s awesome. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

The couple met in 2005 and started dating. They eventually ended up in Gainesville, where Monasterios received a zoology degree from Santa Fe College and Sanchez received a degree in animal science from the University of Florida. When their lease ran out, they moved back to Miami and took jobs — he as a wood floor installer, she as a veterinary tech.

Working in veterinary clinics inspired Sanchez to offer a different type of dog boarding service, rather than keeping the dogs in cages.

“If you leave your dog at the vet’s office, your dog is in jail,” said Sanchez. “For a dog that’s used to being with people, being in a kennel 24/7 is just really stressful.’’

Their dog boarding soon began to take off, helped by social media. Almost 6,000 accounts follow the TheBarkhaus profile via Instagram. Their signature setup shot? Dogs sitting perfectly still in front of various backgrounds.

Eventually, with the increasing popularity of their business, the two quit their jobs to devote their days to the dogs. In the year since it was incorporated, Barkhaus has grown, with 10 to 20 dogs on the premises regularly. Before they opened full time, the couple moved to their current home, which they rent, renovated the backyard and built a split-level sleeping quarters for the dogs. (The couple has a license from the county.)

For medium-sized dogs, daycare is about $20 a day with a $5 late fee. Boarding prices fluctuate, depending on weight. A dog under 25 pounds costs $30 a night to board, with prices higher for bigger dogs.

Clients appreciate the level of care for their pets.

“Since my boyfriend and I travel a lot we never had anyone that would stay with our rescue. Everyone wants to sit little dogs but not big dogs and he has attachment issues,” said Mariela Martinez, 28, owner of a 3-year-old American Bulldog named Chico. “Now he comes home and he’s super calm and relaxed. He gets out all his energy that he needs. We started going in September and ever since then he’s pretty much half their dog since he’s always there.’’

In the future, Monasterios hopes to be in their own facility, ideally with a loft for him and Natalie to live where they work. He knows his business is growing and he’ll have to bring in some help, but he never wants to make it impersonal.

“I don’t want Barkhaus to be something we just hire people and we’re just there once in a while,” he said. “I always want to be there. It’s my baby.”

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