- July 21, 2016
It’s no secret that people love their pets — after all, they’re members of the family.
And because Baldwin Park is full of pet owners and animal lovers, resident Kacey Kelly knew a gathering for people and their pups was missing in the community.
Kelly already owns and operates Kacey Kares, a pet-care business that offers services from dog-walking and petsitting to drop-in visits, overnight stays and even cat care. It’s her passion for animals that led her to build a successful business doing something she loves — caring for and playing with dogs and cats.
Since launching Kacey Kares a couple of years ago, Kelly’s clientele has grown, and so has her love for animals. Being out and about in Baldwin Park all the time, the abundance of dog owners with their pups sparked a new idea: What if she could create a group for people and pups to meet once a week, socialize and exercise?
Kelly launched the Baldwin Bark Club in October to bring together residents who love their dogs and want to meet like-minded dog moms and dads in the area. The group had its first meet-up Oct. 16.
“I came up with the idea because I work from home now pretty much every day,” Kelly says. “I don’t really get an opportunity to meet others in a way people would go to work to meet other people. ...I was like, ‘I want to start a doggie group for people in the neighborhood to come and talk about their dogs and get a little exercise.’”
The idea first struck her a few months ago, when she was out walking with her boyfriend, his parents and their dogs. Kelly realized just what they were doing — hanging out, getting exercise and grabbing a bite to eat — might be of interest to other pet owners.
“I thought, ‘Why not? I know that people who have dogs or cats literally talk about them for hours,’” she says. “My hope is just to kind of have it grow within the community ... and also being able to just meet other people — and people that are similar to me and love dogs.”
The first meet-up consisted mainly of a few Kacey Kares clients, but by the second meet-up, the group had more than tripled in size. People of all ages and walks of life showed up with pups in tow — from golden retrievers and mutts to Australian shepherds and Yorkshire terriers — for an evening out.
The group meets at 6 p.m. every Wednesday at Colibri Orlando on New Broad Street, near Lake Baldwin. Everyone then walks one lap around the lake together — or for as long a distance as they are able to.
At the end of the walk, the group members can socialize and grab a drink or a bite to eat at Colibri. Kelly also will be launching her own Kacey Kares VIP card, which will give cardholders access to exclusive discounts at many Baldwin Park businesses, as well as one free dog walk per month.
“You can walk around the lake, halfway around the lake, it’s really just whatever your dog can handle, and then you’ll come back and can have a drink or dinner,” Kelly says. “Kacey Kares ties in with it, because obviously, we love animals and love people who love animals. …I’m doing it because I want to make friends and I want my dog to make friends. Baldwin Park is a pretty dog-friendly community.”
The Baldwin Bark Club also is a great way for people to socialize their dogs. One of Kelly’s clients has a dog who is a bit nervous around and unsure of other dogs at first until it gets to know them. The only way to help a dog in that situation is to go slow and work patiently with them. Meeting with other people and their dogs on a weekly basis is the perfect scenario in which to do this.
Kelly already is contemplating new ways to enrich the group’s experience as it grows. Currently, group members who participate in the walk around the lake are given a special Baldwin Bark Club key tag, which gives them access to the 15% off at Colibri and The Nest after each meet-up.
“I’m hoping to — maybe once a month as we grow — start having guest speakers,” Kelly says. “I’m partners with a (pet) behavioralist, so I’d like to have her come in one time and talk. I’d like to highlight different areas and bring knowledge to everybody if I can. … My plan is to eventually have a puppy meet and greet with other groups, depending on age and ability.”
As of mid-November, there were 130 members in the Baldwin Bark Club Facebook group.
“It makes me very, very happy because I feel that people that have dogs have a very similar interest … they’re caregivers,” Kelly says. “Everybody has that in common. All dogs are welcome — even if you don’t have a dog and just want to exercise, you’re totally welcome to.”