Camp is the operative word here. Imagine your childhood summer camp, where dozens of kids would play kickball, dodgeball and capture the flag. You could swim in a lake, eat in a dining hall, and generally just be a kid. Now replace kids with dogs and remove the activities. Dozens of dogs, run, romp and wrestle on Run!’s fully fenced 24-acre farm. Most of the play zone is in the woods providing shade, old-growth stumps and boulders to climb on, and streams to swim in. Set in Vernonia, Oregon, it caters primarily to Portland-area dogs (about an hour’s drive away) which are transported via a fleet of air-conditioned Sprinter vans. A typical day sees about 50 dogs, 20 of which will board overnight in the bunkhouse. Otherwise, they are picked up between 7-9am and dropped off from 4-6pm. On the farm there are also goats, pigs, sheep and a newly acquired pair of donkeys, but only the eleven (+1) house dogs interact with the farm animals. Recently, we had a chance to sit down owner Erica.
Rovercoat: You have an impressive business. How long have you been operating, and how did you got started?
Erica: A long time ago…25 years, maybe 26, 27…who knows. After college I wanted a job where I did not have to leave my dog. I couldn’t find one, so I started walking dogs. I put up flyers in the neighborhood and used my old Volvo station wagon. I applied myself and never stopped.
Rovercoat: Your farm is amazing. What did you have to do to prepare your property for your business?
Erica: The first step was to install fences. I think I started with 10 acres. Wait, first there was the permitting – let’s not forget that fun. I had to convert a shop into a functional building. And deforestation. We had to thin the woods and clear the undergrowth. There was incremental development and there still is. The work never stops.
Rovercoat: Vernonia is an hour’s drive from Portland. How did you land there?
Erica: Clackamas County was really friendly. They were the only area near Portland whose land use options aligned with my vision of the business.
Rovercoat : You have eleven dogs of your own, including Charlie the 150-pound pig, and no two are alike. We have to ask – do you have a favorite breed?
Rovercoat: Can you tell us how Charlie joined the pack?
Erica: Charlie was mean. He used to bully the other pigs. They got sick of it and teamed up against him. They wouldn’t let him hang around with them. So, I made the dog door bigger and now he’s like one of the dogs. He even comes on walks with us!
Learn more about Run! Day Camp for Dogs