In 2003, Jennifer Hamilton and her husband, William, opened The Grand Paw, a full-service pet resort on 2.5 acres in a bucolic community bordering La Quinta and Indio. Demand for an additional location prompted the opening of The Grand Paw Palm Springs in December 2014. Located downtown, the 3,500-square-foot space offers an urban doggie day camp experience with separate indoor play areas for large and small pets.
How did you get started in this business?
My husband and I were retiring from the corporate world and wanted to make a change in our lives. We decided to combine our love of animals with our business skills. What we embarked on was a journey to create the kind of facility and the kind of experience that we would want for our dogs if we were out of town or just busy for the day.
What are some of the challenges to running a pet resort?
I think the number one challenge is staffing, and there are two components. One is that I think staffing is difficult for everybody, so we’re like any small business, but number two is the people that we hire have to love dogs. I mean love dogs with a passion.
Speaking of the staff, tell us about their Hawaiian shirt uniforms.
We’ve had Hawaiian shirts since we opened and we just like the energy that it creates, the feeling of being in a resort or resort community. It’s actually interesting because if we don’t wear the Hawaiian shirts, the dogs — they know.
What do you call your visitors?
We at The Grand Paw usually refer to them as the kids, as in, “Are you bringing in the kids?” Or “Here’s what your puppy did today.” We feel like we’re part of their family. At The Grand Paw, it’s almost like we’re part of their network and their tribe, so we’re very connected that way.
Share with us your involvement in the Humane Society of the Desert.
I have been an active volunteer and contributor of time and resources for the past 10 years. In terms of my participation at the board level, I served as vice president from 2009 to 2014. Throughout that time, The Grand Paw has also donated boarding, grooming, day camp, and training services for the Humane Society dogs.