After 20 years, Buda’s Big Oaks Kennel and Dog Park Co. still keeps dogs tired and happy

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When Elaine Purvis went from working in the corporate world to owning a kennel in Buda, she was surprised by her customers.

“My customers are the happiest people,” she said. “It’s not like any job I’ve had. People walk through my door, and 99% of the time they’re happy.”

Big Oaks Kennel and Dog Park Co. offers day care, boarding, grooming and a membership-based dog park, but it was training that first got Elaine and Hardy Purvis into the dog business. In the 1990s, the couple invested in six bird dogs that, it turned out, needed a lot of instruction.

“[Hardy] started training [them], and he didn’t know it, but he really liked it,” Elaine said.

When Elaine parted ways with her job at a semiconductor company, she realized she wanted to spend more time with her small children. Hardy, who had been building kennels for bird dogs in addition to his work in commercial real estate, suggested starting a kennel.

And though it was totally new to the Purvis family, they went forward, finding a large property in Buda with a home built in 1912.

“Everything just fell into place,” she said. “We bought the property in January of 1999, and at Thanksgiving we opened up.”

There are two boarding or day care options for big dogs staying at Big Oaks. The Tradition, which has the first 20 kennels built, is a classic indoor-outdoor individual kennel setup.

A few years after, they built The Farm, an all-outdoor kennel area—with heaters in the winter and misters and fans in the summer—for dogs that do best outside.

All the dogs get plenty of exercise, Elaine said—the staff makes sure they go home worn out.

“A tired dog is a happy dog,” she said. “They’re better behaved, too.”

The Farm is named The Farm because for the first few years the Purvises lived on the property, it was a working organic farm. Then Hardy had an idea.

“He said, ‘What about a dog park?’” Elaine said. “And I said, ‘What?’”

They set out to make it happen, and the property now has a fenced, 3-acre, membership-based dog park that even includes Elaine’s bicycle for people who want to ride alongside dogs. All the dogs with memberships must show vaccination records and be evaluated for behavior.

“These public dog parks—you don’t know if those dogs have been vaccinated; you don’t know if they’re nice; you don’t know if the owner’s nice,” Elaine said.

The most recent addition to Big Oaks is a wing for up to 24 dogs under 20 pounds, which Elaine said she had been dreaming of for 18 years.

“I already had the floor plan in my head,” she said. “I just thought, I can make this so cute.”

She named it The Cottage and included a separate entrance to a small-dogs-only porch and play yard that are connected by a ramp so the little dogs do not have to contend with stairs—or with big dogs.

“I always thought: They don’t want  to be sitting in [The Tradition] across from a big slobbering Lab,” Elaine said.

The wing with The Cottage also includes a new room for employees, a kitchen and a grooming room where dogs can have baths, toenail clips, haircuts, ear cleaning and many other services from the Big Oaks groomer, who has 30 years of experience.

Elaine and Hardy have big plans for Big Oaks. When complete, the property will have 6,500 square feet of retail space with veterinary offices and self-serve dog washing stations that are under construction.

“Think big box out-of-the-box,” Hardy said.

Big Oaks Kennel & Dog Park Co.
500 Loop St., Buda
512-312-0235
www.bigoakskennel.com
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 7 a.m.-1 p.m. and 3-6 p.m., Sat.-Sun 10 a.m.-12 p.m. and 4-6 p.m.

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Katharine Jose has written about politics, infrastructure, environment, development, natural disasters and other subjects for The New York Observer, Capital New York, and The New York Times, among other publications. She was an editor for several publications in New York City before she moved to Texas, and has a master's degree in urban planning from the University of Texas-Austin.
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