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Christen Simeral/MEDILL

Green Dog Inc. is an eco-friendly doggie day care business in Ukrainian Village.

Green Dog Inc. keeps its carbon pawprint small

by Christen Simeral
Feb 27, 2014

For years, Brenda Lang built a holistic lifestyle for her three dogs. After seeing how they benefitted from the relaxed, healthy environment, she wanted to provide the same to other dogs.

Lang, who lives in Wicker Park, had an idea for a business that would combine companionship, exercise and a low-stress atmosphere. In 2006, she opened Green Dog at 2231 W. Chicago Ave. in Ukrainian Village. The eco-friendly doggie day care, dog walking and “bed and breakfast” boarding business employs a natural approach to caring for canine companions.

“We want to provide the best possible, loving care to our canine clients with an eco-friendly mindset,” Lang said.

Open seven days a week, Green Dog provides its pooches with non-toxic toys, bedding and even biodegradable “poop bags.” The dogs are fed organic food and treats, drink filtered water and at bath time, get scrubbed down with natural soaps and shampoos.

When Lang opened, she also decided to make the facility green. She used eco-friendly paint, caulk and wood-stain, and installed solar-powered lighting. The kennels, floor and outdoor play yard are constructed from recycled materials and cleaned with plant-based products.

And to reduce its carbon footprint, the day care’s dog walkers ride bicycles to clients’ homes, which are within a 1.5-mile radius of the business. Most of the clients live in Wicker Park and nearby neighborhoods, Lang said.

Doggie day care service tarts at $30 per dog, with overnight boarding services starting at $45. Rates for dog walking services start at $15 for 30 minutes, with an additional $3 per extra dog.

Last year, the business had sales of about $550,000 from its three services, said Lang, 43.

Originally from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Lang attended the University of Iowa and moved to Chicago when she was 25 to work in the private equity sector.

In 2000, she began volunteering at Friends of Chicago Animal Care and Control, more commonly known as the city pound. She eventually joined its foster program committee and became a board member.

“Through volunteering with animals, I realized that I really wanted to make a career out of caring for dogs,” Lang said.

Day care is Green Dog’s most popular service, with an average of 35 canine clients a day. The highly structured daily routine begins with dividing the dogs into two groups based on size and play style. The dogs rotate through indoor and outdoor settings, settling in for naptime after lunch.

“Dogs are like kids. They need downtime, too,” said Lang. She keeps it “as tranquil as possible,” setting the mood with classical music and lavender aromatherapy.

Because Green Dog’s employees walk or bike to their clients’ homes, this severe winter has been challenging.

“It’s been really tough for our dog walkers who ride their bikes between client homes. It also means that we’ve had to adjust our playtime routine during cold days,” Lang said.

The small business has 14 employees including Lang: six dog walkers, four daytime caretakers, one overnight caretaker and two assistant office managers.

“Brenda has a true love for animals, so running her business is more of a service to the animals than actual work,” said friend Briana Valaika, who has known Lang for more than 15 years. “She’s a hardworking, intuitive and compassionate professional.”

Gerry Fabbri, who has worked as an assistant office manager for three years, not only loves working with the dogs but enjoys the atmosphere at Green Dog.

“It’s as relaxed as it can be, considering there are times when there are 40 dogs around,” said Fabbri, who also shares Lang’s progressive approach to dog care.

“Anything you can do to keep the environment and the animals safe is a plus. It’s about taking care of the world as much as you can,” Fabbri said. “I feel proud to work at a place that is committed to that—to being as green as possible. You can’t do it 100 percent, but you do it as much as you can.”