A guide to living local in New Hampshire

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Is a Pet Destination

By Stacy Milbouer / Fiddlehead Contributing Editor

The Woofmeow Family Pet Center in Dover made a big splash when it opened earlier this year, particularly with canines who took advantage of the facility’s dog pool.

In his store in Dover and his other shop in Derry, Mike Griffeth has created “destination resorts” for pets that he calls a family-first experience.

“I think the Woofpool sets us apart,” said Griffeth, who, with his co-owner and wife, Pamela, opened the Dover store in June.

The Derry location on Manchester Road opened eight years ago and does not have a pool, but Griffeth said if they were building it now, they would have put one in. He modeled the pool after one he saw in Maryland.

“It’s really starting to take off,” he said. “At first people thought the pool was just for older dogs or dogs with problems, which required low-impact exercise. But while it’s good for that, only 20 percent of the dogs are here for therapeutic reasons. Eighty percent are swimming for fun.”

The 4-foot-deep, built-in pool is sparkling clean. The water is constantly checked for safety levels and dog life jackets line the tiled walls. Dogs are usually required to wear the jackets the first time they swim and they can dry off in the spa-like Woofwash room.

“We have them wear the life jackets and pass a little swim test before we unleash them,” said manager Samantha Stevens.

The pooches are on their own in the water. No humans are allowed in the pool, but they can certainly watch in delight on the sidelines.

After a good swim, or any exercise for that matter, a dog could use a treat. Both Woofmeow locations have a Woof Bakery with locally made colorful yogurt cookies shaped like blue dolphins, red crabs, green turtles, blue and red Red Sox caps, pink and green sea horses and even and emoji or two. Store managers have also been known to whip up some special free treats from time to time – like pumpkin pupcakes.

The Woofmeow centers, while family owned, are not small pet shops with a few dusty gold fish tanks and three choices of cat food. They resemble chain stores – modern, clean and with a wide variety of products. But they’re not, said Griffeth, who said he purposely set out to “defang” the big chain approach.

“What sets us apart is the big-box chains are in the business of selling commodities. We’re in the business of being a destination for pet lovers and pets.”

In addition to all manner of foods and feeds, there are toys, treats, chicken coops, bird cages and feeders and baked treats for woofers and meowers that look good enough for humans to eat. The store doesn’t just sell the products, its employees – pet lovers and owners all – are knowledgeable about nutrition, house training and pet behavior and are happy to take the time to chat and advise to help, according to its website “nurture the bond between you and your pet.”

That’s especially true when it comes to children, which is why the store sells small pets. He said it is often a pet store where children have their first encounter with animals. Woofmeow sells mice, rats, guinea pigs and bunnies, or as Griffeth calls them, “small, wonderful little balls of fur” from local breeders.

There are all kinds of aquatic creatures from fancy goldfish to tire track eels and snakes and reptiles that slither and crawl.

And then there are the chickens, but not just any dumb clucks. They are heirloom chicken breeds that are cold-hardy and New England-approved. All chickens are organically fed and vaccinated. And there’s even a chicken expert on staff to offer advice for the growing trend of backyard coops.

The shop also sells a variety of birds, including finches and macaws.

“It’s a great time to bring kids in when they can see us hand feed them,” Griffeth said, noting that all their feathered friends are tested to health standards higher than those mandated by state law.

And while the shops do not sell dogs and cats, they offer everything you could imagine to care for and nurture them. They support the Mazunte Turtle Project and advocate for the adoption programs of the Humane Society and other pet and rescue groups that help critters find forever homes, following up with the nurturing assistance the pooches and purrers require.

For more information, visit woofmeownh.com.