Twenty-five years ago, Deborah Law saw a boarding kennel as a way to bring in some supplemental income.
Today, Law partners with her son, William Law, to care for as many as 85 pets - mostly dogs - at a time, with the help of a dozen part-time staffers.
Law's Country Kennel, located near Roanoke, is currently celebrating its 25th anniversary.
William Law says a kennel was somewhat of a novelty when his family founded the business back in 1987. While market research conducted by his father showed that the idea was feasible, Law says he believes an affinity for animals also played a role in the decision.
"I think it was because of our love for animals," he says. "Mom was in the horse business, and Dad grew up on a farm."
The Laws always had dogs of their own - Cavalier King Charles spaniels - and Law and his brother started out early helping with the business.
William Law took on his current role after moving back home from Chicago in 2004. He handles the business end, keeping things organized, managing human resources, keeping the kennel's Facebook page and Twitter account updated and paying the bills. Deborah Law, meanwhile, is the public face of the kennel, working with customers and their pets and managing the staff.
The staff consists of mostly college students, some of whom are studying to be vet techs. Law's Country Kennel has an education assistance program to help those students pay for college, he says.
Caring for pets while their owners are away requires consistency and commitment, he says.
"Our staff has to be committed to being here on Christmas morning," he says. "They have to be here in three inches of snow.
"We work really hard at finding good staff. There's no way Mom and I could take care of 85 dogs by ourselves."
Law's Country Kennel is open every day except holidays, but the kennel does keep animals over the holidays. In fact, William Law says, an estimated 80 to 90 pets will be staying at Law's this Christmas.
Another must for staffers is being sensitive to each pet's temperament, he says.
"You have to be aware of the animal's needs, have good animal husbandry skills," he says. "We have the responsibility of making sure the pets are adjusting."
While some dogs are happy-go-lucky, others are nervous at being left in a new place and have a difficult time adjusting to the environment.
"We have to understand the concerns of the customers and the needs of the pets," he says.
While Law's has 52 indoor-outdoor kennels, many pet owners have multiple dogs and often want those dogs to share a kennel, he says. Owners often bring in beds, toys and other items that smell like home.
Although dogs make up the majority of the pets boarded at Law's, the kennel also accepts other animals, including cats, and has also cared for birds, a rabbit - and even a pot bellied pig.
"He weighed about 85 pounds," Law says of the pig. "His name was P.Q., and he always ate breath mints."
Occasionally, dogs who get along well together are allowed to spend time in the play yard - always with staff members acting as "recess monitors," Law says.
Other extras include nature walks, grooming and bathing services offered either with boarding or separately and a pick-up and delivery service for the dogs.
Law's also sponsors animal rescue and community events and provides financial support to the adoption programs of Fort Wayne Animal Care and Control and the Allen County SPCA.
The 11-acre facility is located at 10219 N. Gundy Road, Roanoke. For information, call 672-8200.