Holidays during peak time

I have bookings on hold for Xmas/NY period at the moment (although am taking bookings either side of the busy 2 weeks), as I understand what staffing levels will be at.

Current clients are requested to start contacting me for their needs from Oct 20.  After all the current clients have booked in, then I will start taking bookings for new clients.  If you aren't able to make it for drop off and pick up during normal opening hours, I will not be able to take your booking.  There are kennels in Melbourne who are open 24/7 and will look after you if that's what your needs are.

Preference is given to clients whose dogs we know and the humans who understand the in's and out's.  

This means if we haven't had the chance to board your dog/s previously to Xmas/NY, it's unlikely I'll have a spot for them at that time.  Preference is also given to clients with longer booking needs. 

Please note:  during the busy times at xmas/ny, there is a minimum of 7 nights booking required.  For other school hols, there is a minimum of 5 nights.    Sometimes I might be able to finangle a smaller booking time if there is a gap in the schedule but these are usually only available to regular clients who keep us fed during off peak times.

Strictly all drop offs, pick ups and tours are by appointment only.  eg:  9.45am on Friday (not:  "sometime on Friday")

At Toolleen Country Retreat, we pride ourselves on offering for our clients, far more than just "some days in a boarding kennel" when owners are away (for example, that picture above is of our client dogs, and we're doing that exact thing every day and could be doing it with your dog).

We offer a full array of activities where almost all activities are included in the price.  For those activities that will require extra time, those extra fees range from $5-$30/day.

We can provide updates about your pets.  If you need frequent updates, eg: once a day, then a fee of betwen $5-20 is required per update, booked in advance.  Please note:  preference is given to clients who don't need after hours and/or weekend updates as we need to have balance in our lives.  As we are looking after your pet, you need to look after us.  (Particularly Jane who does the bulk of the work and is on call 105 hours a week here, which by any reasoning is way too much and has to decrease.)

We pride ourselves on getting to know each of our client dogs and their owners, although we probably learn more about the dogs than the people.

Our extensive facility is run by the owners, with maximum time given to exercise, appropriate rest environment, and excellent diet.

Our dog owners often say that "we can finally go on a guilt free holiday knowing the dogs will have a fantastic time too."

We will often book out weeks in advance before major holiday periods. That being said, in the most recent Christmas period we had panicked people calling at 9pm on Christmas Eve, on Christmas Day, and on Boxing day desperately needing a booking. The most common issue "our pet/house sitter has cancelled!"

Some tips for holiday booking:
  • Give us the chance to work with your pets before the busy periods.  If you keep us fed during the off peak times particularly with well behaved dogs, we'll give you preference during peak times.  That's our equivalent of a "loyalty card".  
  • You pay for the time booked, even if you pick up early or decide to drop off later than planned.  
  • Check out our opening hours, and work within those parameters.  We used to offer exceptions out of hours, but found that in over 98% of cases, people did not make those times, and refused to pick up our additional staffing costs, so because of them, we have a blanket rule of only staffing reception during the specified set times.  (no good deed goes unpunished.)
  • Drop your dogs off the day before your flight leaves, so that you're not panicking on the way to the airport.
  • On your return from your holiday, think about picking up your dog the day after you return - so that you're not panicked if your flight is late or cancelled, and so that you're not driving whilst jetlagged.  Please don't tell me, "my flight lands at 9pm from overseas, can I pick up my dog on the way home?"  This is not a 7/11 darl.
We give preferential booking status during peak times to the following:
  • Customers who have stayed with us previously, so that the dogs that come in are used to boarding with us.
  • Customers who have a record of not cancelling or shortening bookings at the last moment previously.  (Tip: if you have cancelled at the last minute for a peak time booking, unfortunately it is unlikely we will take a booking from you again unless you paid in full for your missed booking.)
  • Desexed dogs (we heavily limit the number of "entire" dogs we can take during peak times and charge an extra $5/night if we can take them during peak periods)
  • Well socialised dogs that behave well in the presence of others (this is particularly important for dogs over 15kg, not so much for smaller dogs)

Please note: the time you book for your holidays is the time you will pay for. ie: if you book at 2 week booking for your dog, and decide on drop off that you will only be going away for 5 days, you will need to pay for the entire 2 week booking. This keeps it fair for us and our other clients. Also, if you decide to pick up your dog/s early, no booked nights will be refunded nor credited for future use.

Sometimes people don't know quite what to say when they ring us the first time so we'll offer some better suggestions (and yes, all of these things in the left hand column have been said by people wanting to book in):

Real questions we've been asked that leave us scratching our heads: Suggested better options:
We hate leaving our dogs at a kennel but.... We're looking for a wonderful place to leave our dog/s and we've heard about you.
The kennel we normally use is full.... We go away several times a year and are looking for a wonderful place to leave our dogs where we can establish a long term relationship with the facility's owners
Every other kennel is full... We understand you offer a facility like no other. That's what we're looking for.
Can I drop off/pick up on Christmas Day.... I understand the incredible hours you work and how family time is precious. What's the closest date to Christmas Day that we can drop off our dog?
Will you day board my dog on Christmas Day... Of course it would be offensive to ask if you could look after my dog on Christmas Day for day boarding, but are there any other days that we could do such?
I only need boarding from Christmas Day.  Surely I'm not expected to pay for the extra days I need to drop my dog off to suit you? We certainly don't expect small business with such great service to be open 24/7.  We know how much time and energy you put in to boarding our pets.  What time works best for you for us to drop off?
I can't believe you haven't returned any of my 40 phone calls over the weekend for a booking I might want in 8 months time. I've been brought up with good manners and realise that the appropriate time to contact you is during normal office hours Monday to Friday, here have a bottle of wine too.
You didn't answer my messages at 10pm on Friday nor Saturday night as I urgently needed an update on my dog even though I got one on Thursday and have not paid the extra fees for out of hours updates. Jane, here's a bottle of wine.  I'm on holidays.  I trust you.  I don't need updates on my dog.

We are a small family run business, with feelings. We are not some big nameless heartless corporation. We already work an 80+ hour week. Please don't ask us to do more, as refusal often offends.


Other points perhaps worth noting

  • Our minimum booking time during most peak periods is 5 nights.  At Christmas time our preferred booking minimum is 10 nights, and only a small number of bookings will be available at 5 nights.  Typically those bookings can only be made after 1st Dec each year.  
  • Bookings open for xmas from Oct 20, with preference given to 2+ dogs from the same home, and longer bookings.  We've found if we take bookings earlier than that, there is an enormous cancellation and/or change rate.  ie:  90%.  And in addition, we can't forsee staffing levels too far in advance.
  • If you book for 2 dogs, but only show up with one, you will still be paying for the 2 dogs.
  • We no longer accept "new dog" bookings for the two busiest weeks over Christmas/New Year.  This is a very busy and hot time for us, and potentially more stressful on the dogs.  This means if your dogs haven't stayed with us before this period, they will need to have a trial couple of days beforehand.  No exceptions.  And no, this is not free - we are still doing the work.   
  • Payment for booking is required when you check your dogs in or beforehand
  • Rule of thumb: we are like a hotel - check your dog in in the afternoon, pick them up in the morning. We can change these times to the alternate session, but there is a $10 "entertainment fee", which is subject to change at our discretion.  
  • We used to offer some flexibility in dropping off & picking up times, but found that 90% of clients were over an hour late, and usually without a phone call or text. This is why we are now strict with drop off and pick up times. There is definitely no drop off or pick up available on Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning.
  • We do not accept any dogs to book in on either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. No exceptions.
  • Our office hours are limited so that we can spend value added time with the dogs and cats
  • If the gate is closed, do not come in. Closed means closed. If you've got an appointment, and you've kept to schedule, the gates will not be closed.
  • If you are running late and have not called or sent a text, your entire booking may be cancelled and you may lose your administration fee.
  • If we have waited for you at a special pre-arranged time and you don't show up, you will be charged an additional fee of between $50-$100, and in all likelihood we will cancel all future bookings.
  • People who "no show"  at peak times or cancel at the last minute will have all future bookings cancelled and not re-admitted.  We turn away lots of wonderful people each holiday period, and do not want them to miss out because of people who aren't serious about their holiday bookings.
Finally, in the vast majority of cases are customers and their dogs are wonderful. Frankly it's embarrassing to us that we even need to detail some of this list above, but a small percentage of people do expect us to be at their personal beck and call 24/7, and of that small percentage almost all expect us to do it for free and with a smiling face.

We would rather be less busy (and make less money!) but have lovely dogs in our facility with lovely owners, than the reverse.  This is an unwavering lifestyle decision for us, not a financial one.

We love establishing trusting and respectful relationships with all our human and canine clients, and it is true that we have established some wonderful friendships that extend beyond the boundaries of the facility.

all the best,

The Team at Toolleen Country Retreat for Dogs and Cats.


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