By Noah Hoffenberg
Eagle sponsored content editor
PITTSFIELD – How much dog can you handle in a day?
One pound of dog? That's just a newborn puppy size.
Ten pounds? Now, we're talking about a Jack Russell terrier.
How about 200 pounds of dog? Think you could wrangle that for a bath? Heck, even food or playtime?
Shannon Petersoli of Peru, the proud owner of the Animal Inn of the Berkshires on Hubbard Avenue, handily wrestles that much and more every day, not only at the office, but also at home.
Petersoli lives and works with her massive English mastiffs, 230-pound Denali and 190-pound Acadia, truck-sized dogs with fawn and brindle markings (each named after GMC SUVs). “The big babies” will be 2 on Aug. 26.
“They don't know their own power. When a wagging tail gets you, it feels like you've been hit with a bat,” says Petersoli, who bought the Animal Inn seven years ago. Also good with cats, Petersoli has one at home named Salem, who tolerates her over-sized canine roommates.
The Animal Inn of the Berkshires is a 40-year-old pet grooming, boarding and day care business that's taken Best of the Berkshires and Best of Pittsfield honors numerous times; Petersoli herself is woven into the business' history, with 20 years as an employee, then running it for 15 years before finally owning it.
All animal lovers, Petersoli and her team aren't the types to keep your pet, whether purebred mastiff or island mutt, behind bars, released for playtime only for cash.
“There's a lot of facilities that don't walk the dogs, and they charge you extra for doing it. Playtime is part of your purchase here; the dogs need the exercise,” says Petersoli.
Pet safety and owner-approved activities are the priority for the company, she says.
“We don't do anything off-site, for safety,” she says. “We don't have them outside without permission. And we know what's going on with your dog at all times.”
The site can hold 80 dogs comfortably for boarding, as well as cats, but with COVID-19, numbers are just starting to pick up after the pandemic crimped vacations and other extended stays away for Berkshire pet owners, says Petersoli. Cats lodge in a separate area from the dogs, toward the front of the office, where they get socialization with staff and visitors.
Doggy day care traffic has increased as people adjust to work from home responsibilities, and grooming appointments are normal, that is to say, booked two months out.
“It's a drop-off thing. A spa day, we say,” says Petersoli. “It's like when women go and get their hair done, it's that kind of day.”
Petersoli, who trained as a cosmetologist, jokes that her study still gets put to use, still doing hair, just not on humans.
Turnaround time, depending on the kind of dog, is a handful of hours. Pups check in at 8 to 9 a.m. in the morning, and they can leave by 1 or 2 p.m. or later.
During doggy day care at the Animal Inn, furry friends go outside for four to five times a day, playing with fellow pups and/or with humans. Petersoli says, more important than it being included in the price, is the necessity of play for the dogs.
“When they get tired, they're cranky, like a 2-year-old. Everybody needs playtime and downtime,” says Petersoli. She says that too much or too little play or rest can be damaging for dogs, especially the young ones.
Perhaps best of all, the Animal Inn welcomes all kinds of canines, Petersoli says, with the rare exception being dogs that will harm others or themselves.
“The only ones we don't take are the ones who will certainly bite,” she notes.
For boarding, the Animal Inn cares for your sick or medically treated dogs, too; diabetic animals, however, should be kept at home or at a veterinarian's office for boarding, where they'll be regulated and monitored; most other medications can be administered by Animal Inn staff.
If there's ever a health emergency, the Animal Inn will try to work with the animal's own vet; but if time is of the essence, Petersoli said staff will rush the pet to Berkshire Veterinary Hospital on Crane Avenue, which is the closest, and an employee will call the owner on the way.
Sometimes, when you go to a dog-boarding business, you wonder what happens to the animals when you leave. You might wonder if the workers ever get much exposure to humans. Maybe you're left wondering if it was such a good idea to leave FiFi's bouffant up to the kid in earbuds and the hair buzzers.
Petersoli says the staff at the Animal Inn relate equally well to humans and animals: Workers are friendly, helpful and come drama-free, says Petersoli.
One of the longtime staff is Jane-Ann Hisert, a groomer for 40 years who's been with the Animal Inn for about 15 years; Petersoli calls her a “dream employee.” She also cites the exemplary work of her longtime co-worker and now employee and very close friend Jessica Ferris, the kennel manager, as well as a regular crop of more than a dozen seasonal employees.
As families, couples and individuals emerge from lockdown and begin to venture farther from home and travel for work and vacations, the Animal Inn stands ready to serve to help keep an eye on their loved ones, Petersoli says.
With safety of pets, their owners and employees foremost in mind during the COVID-19 outbreak, the Animal Inn is having four-legged visitors leave their toys and bedding at home; fear not, however, as the company has plenty of new gear to keep pets busy during their stay.
These days, at drop-off, the business just takes any special food, a leash, any medication, and the dog or cat. All employees are masked when dealing with customers, and only one customer is allowed in at a time.
Walk-ins are still welcome, as is curbside drop-off and pick-up, and staff can always help the elderly in the Animal Inn's parking lot. For walk-ins, the business can do nail or face trims, to get your pup looking presentable (and recognizable) again.
No matter the reason for the visit, Petersoli says, “I try to make everybody feel as comfortable as possible, when leaving their fur baby with us.” The health and happiness of the pet are always put first, she says.
Pet owners can stop in anytime at 120 Hubbard Ave. at the Dalton line, armed with questions and a mask, or they can call or text 413-442-3472, or visit animalinnoftheberkshires.com or the business.