Now taking reservations

Canine Country Club boarding kennel opens in Columbiana

Written by Emily Sparacino

Photographs by Dawn Harrison 

Life is short, James Hale said, and caring for animals gives his life meaning.

“I do love animals,” he said, as he and his wife, Jackie, talked about their journey to opening Canine Country Club, a boarding kennel located on the couple’s 13-acre farm off Shelby County 47, between Columbiana and Chelsea.

Canine Country Club opened for business in December, but the Hales’ experience with animals – dogs and horses, specifically – spans decades.

In 1996, James Hale Stables was built on the property as a training facility for show horses.

“We train American Saddlebred show horses,” Jackie said.

The Hales have had as many as 40 show horses in training. They enjoy working with the horses, but could not overlook the amount of energy required to train and care for as many as 40 horses at a time.

“He wanted to scale back,” Jackie said of James. “We love the horses, but they’re very labor intensive.”

In 2016, 20 years after opening the stables, James and Jackie decided to downsize the horse training and pursue James’ longtime dream of operating a dog boarding kennel, a “natural fit” for them, according to Jackie.

“We’ve been talking about doing this for 10 years,” Jackie says. “We love dogs. The kennels are our retirement plan.”

They have 15 dogs, some of which are rescues, at home. For James, “his dogs are his hobby,” Jackie said.

In September, they started the process of converting half of the main barn into a 3,200-square-foot, climate-controlled kennel area by removing 14 horse stalls.

The kennel area consists of 21 runs, or “clubhouses,” measuring 4 feet by 6 feet. Each clubhouse comes with a cot and a blanket, along with any personal items pet owners leave with their dogs, such as toys and treats.

Ten of the 21 clubhouses have doggie doors that open to a 4-foot-by-4-foot enclosed patio area under the roofline of the facility.

While the patio gives dogs the freedom to enjoy fresh air and a view of the outdoors, it doesn’t replace their daily walks and exercise time, Jackie said.

“We hand-walk them and turn out,” Jackie said, noting an outdoor 50-foot-by-150-foot fenced-in turnout area, where each dog or dogs from the same family are allowed to roam freely for set periods of time under the Hales’ supervision. “We’re glad to have that (area).”

“We’re not going to have big group play, but if your dog comes with family members, that family can go out there,” Jackie said. “We give people the option of them being able to play with other dogs or not.”

Jackie said they have room to install as many as a dozen additional clubhouses in the facility if the need arises.

“We’re just going to wait and see what people want,” Jackie said.

An indoor play area measuring 400 square feet sits in the middle of the facility and serves as a place for each dog to use when they are let out of their runs.

Used in professional boarding kennels, the “grass” covering the area’s elevated surface resembles turf and sits on a grate that allows water to drain below.

The couple emphasized that Canine Country Club can accommodate dogs with special needs. If a dog needs a dose of its medication at 10 p.m., for example, they can meet such a need since their home is a minute’s walk away from the facility.

They also don’t charge for the administering of medication.

They kept a dog over Christmas that had cataract surgery and was diabetic, Jackie said.

“We decided when we started this we wanted to promote the fact we can handle special needs dogs,” she said. “We take special requests and try to meet people’s needs.”

Although they don’t provide extensive grooming services, they offer bath and blow-dry services for dogs boarding.

When the kennel is not at full capacity with boarders, James and Jackie plan to partner with the Shelby Humane Society and other rescue groups to host adoption events and to possibly foster dogs in need of special care or medical attention before they go to their new homes.

“We are excited about working with some rescue groups,” Jackie said. “We can recoup a dog that’s maybe just had surgery and needs rehab.”

Select retail items, including Perri’s Leather dog collars and leashes, are available for purchase in the front lobby of Canine Country Club.

Jackie’s mother, who owned a boarding kennel in Birmingham when Jackie was a child, has helped the couple start Canine Country Club.

“She’s had a good time helping us get this off the ground,” Jackie said.

Ashton Hale, James’ daughter who is a veterinary technician, lives across the street and helps at Canine Country Club part-time.

The Hales plan to hire part-time workers to help at Canine Country Club sporadically throughout the spring and summer.

They hope to continue adding amenities to the kennel area – perhaps a big screen TV mounted to the wall, for starters – to create a pleasant atmosphere for the four-legged guests of Canine Country Club.

“He (James) just wants to make this as homey as we can,” Jackie said, adding their primary focus is providing the best care and showing compassion for every animal that comes into their kennel.

“You’ve got to care, and think, and worry,” James said. “That means more to me … just to care.”

Canine Country Club is located at 6720 Chelsea Road in Columbiana.

For more information, call (205) 258-2582, email CanineCountryClubAL@gmail.com or visit Caninecountryclub.pet.