HARFORD COUNTY, Md. — Dog daycares are considered essential businesses during this coronavirus pandemic so they're open normal hours.
Best Friends Fur Ever actually is now open earlier and later to help accommodate those working on the front lines, even though they've seen a significant decrease in business.
"Here in Joppa, on this nice day in the middle of spring, we'd be at about 150 dogs playing here today. Today, we'll be somewhere in the 30s or 40s," said Kelly Cullum, the co-owner of Best Friends Fur Ever.
They usually keep a ratio of one handler to every 10-15 dogs so they originally had to furlough 35 employees. Then, she got the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act so she hired every single employee back. They may not have the dogs for them to watch but those employees are working on other projects.
She's happy people are listening to the Governor's order and staying home. So she understands why business is down.
"We're gonna make it through this," she said. "Out of this we will rise!"
Even though they're going through a difficult time, she's now giving back to her customers and the community. They're giving away 2,500 free days of daycare for any essential worker. She partnered with Jimmy's Famous Seafood and Show Your Soft Side to make this "Play It Forward" initiative possible.
"They've been coming to us ever since we opened and they've always been our heroes for doing that, bringing their dogs to us but now they're everybody's heroes. When we were deemed essential we were thrilled because that means we could continue to serve people who's days are like 12 hours long and they're worried about their dog," said Cullum.
Those workers are grateful. Whether they have to go into the office or work from home.
Janet Moscati has to still go into work as a configuration manager. She dropped off her dog Blaze and told us, "I know hes cared for. I don't have to worry about him being home by himself. This way he gets a lot of exercise and he gets a lot of extra love."
Scott Kramer, an assessor for the Army, has to work from home and that's hard to do with his husky playing around. He said, "she has the social interaction I cant provide since I'm stuck on phone call or stuck on a video chat plus having a dog in the background jumping up and down."
Amy Youmatz has to do a little bit of both as a psychometric. She wants her dog, Molly, taken care of while she's busy.
"She doesn't like it when, if I'm at home on a phone call. But if I'm at work, its nice to have a place where I can trust the people. She's always loved it here. They always take care of her," said Youmatz.
They can't just go in the front door and hand an employee their dogs anymore. Instead, they have to wait outside, six feet away from anyone else, until it's their turn.
Each person walks through a gate, puts their dog in a crate, takes off any personal collar and then they're good to go. Once the owner leaves, a handler will put a new collar on the dog and take them to play! All to limit social interaction.
"I think its great to support these businesses in this hard time. I will continue to do so and i hope others will too," said Taylor Chaillou, who's still working at Franklin Square Hospital as a patient advocate. She usually takes her dog, Sampson, to the park but all those places are closed right now.