They often say the best businesses are those created to solve one’s own problem. That was not only the case one time, but two times for 28-year-old, St. Cloud native Bethann Gondeck, or “Bethie” as she prefers.
In early December, Bethie opened the area’s first private indoor dog park for several reasons, but a main contributing factor to its inspiration was her dog Deuce.
“Let’s just say he can be very rowdy,” explained Bethie with a laugh. “He’s been asked to not return to a few outdoor dog parks in town because of his high energy. Creating a private indoor dog park allows Deuce, and dogs like him, to have a place to go, especially in the winter, to burn off energy without me having to worry he’ll get out of hand.”
Opening the indoor dog park isn’t the first business Bethie has under her belt in recent years. In 2015, she started Grey Face Rescue & Retirement, a non-profit, foster-based, volunteer-driven dog rescue focused on senior dogs age seven or older.
Bethie first developed the idea of starting a senior dog rescue when her great uncle’s dog, Barnaby, was unable to make the move to the nursing home with him due to Barnaby’s size and mobility restrictions. Although Bethie took Barnaby into her home, the experience made her realize the shortage of shelters equipped and willing to take in a senior dog in need of extra care and attention. Not long after, Grey Face was born.
After a few seasons of business, Bethie noticed the influx of owner surrendered dogs at Grey Face was noticeably higher during the winter months, with the primary reason being behavioral issues; this is a problem Bethie hopes to combat with the indoor dog park.
“Winter in Minnesota can be really tough on dogs. Cooped-up energy can lead to home destruction, biting and, sometimes, even worse situations. By offering a low cost, indoor exercise option, we’re hoping to reduce the number of dogs being surrendered to Grey Face by their owners in the winter.”
However, Greater St. Cloud dog owners won’t find the indoor dog park open daily, at least not yet. The hours of availability are limited to that of volunteers, including Bethie who works full-time as a operations manager at a local St. Cloud business and calls Grey Face her “side hustle”.
For the near future, the indoor dog park will be open Thursdays and Fridays from 5:00-9:00 PM and Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM, by appointment only. Appointments can be scheduled by phone or form submission on the Grey Face website. Bethie is actively working to implement an online scheduling tool in early 2019.
Long-term, Bethie envisions scaling-up Grey Face by offering additional services such as dog training and seminars, grooming and affordable vet care, but she was quick specify that increasing the number of dogs being taken into the rescue will likely not exceed its current cap of 30 anytime soon.
“Because we only take seniors, it’s pretty typical for us to receive dogs who’ve suffered years of neglect, which can be costly to correct,” explained Bethie. “On average, we spend $500-$1,500 per dog to get it ready for its next home. This can include everything from seeing animal dentistry specialists to basic spay/neuter appointments.”
Grey Face’s modest adoption fee of $175 proves the company’s passion is in the care, not the profit.
“A lot of rescues make money off of their adoption fee. There’s nothing wrong with that, but that’s just not our goal,” Bethie said. “Although there are many benefits to owning a senior dog, that age group is not top of mind for most people. And if a family is interested in adopting a senior, we definitely don’t want the price to be a barrier.”
An approachable adoption price combined with the appropriate TLC has proved to be a successful approach for Grey Face, as the company has successfully saved the lives of over 200 senior dogs in just over three years of business.
Now, with a full-time Operations Manager on staff, Grey Face intends to strengthen their volunteer network, referred to as the ‘Grey Face Army’, comprised of over 100 Minnesotans statewide, while continuing to deepen its local roots by partnering with other dog-loving businesses in Greater St. Cloud.
“We just wanted to get the dog park open for the winter, knowing there are definitely improvements we’ll want to make,” said Bethie. “Like, I’d love to have turf in there, but as an upfront cost, it just couldn’t be justified because our funds need to go to our dogs. As we continue to raise awareness of Grey Face and the dog park, my hope is that we’ll also grow our local partners to make more funding available for upgrades like a turf floor.”
Bethie admits to occasionally getting emotional when she thinks about how far Grey Face has come in such a short amount of time. “I’ve always been a dreamer, but those dreams always seemed to only show up on paper and not go anywhere. When Grey Face came to fruition, it just felt right,” Bethie stated. “My greatest accomplishment in all of this was when my older brother told me my hustle inspired him. To me, that compliment was worth more than anything.”
When asked if operating Grey Face full-time is a position of interest, Bethie admits she fears she wouldn’t love it as much, if it was her only gig. “Right now, Grey Face gives me to the ability to fulfill my passion for animals outside of work,” explained Bethie. “If I did it full-time, I worry it would lose its appeal.”
For now, the wife, mom and animal lover is staying focused on taking it one day at a time and doing what she enjoys in a way that works for her and her family.
Head to www.GreyFaceRescue.org to learn more about the organization, indoor dog park, volunteering and sponsorship opportunities.