HALIFAX — Let’s face it, any way you slice it, travelling can suck when you own a beloved dog. Either you must spend time away from them and try and find a reliable pet sitter, or bring them on the plane with you. And owners know how stressful flying can be on a pooch.

But, for many years, there was no pet boarding service anywhere near the Halifax Stanfield International Airport. That all changed in November when Laurie Francis opened Air Buddies in the old Jiffy Lube building half a kilometre from the airport.

Francis is not new to operating a business where she takes care of dogs and pets. For several years, she’s run Air Buddies K9 Academy in Enfield.

“We always had pets growing up. I just I’ve always been involved with animals. And I started competing in the dog world when I was 15 years old,” said Francis.

“Right now, I have the number-one bull mastiff in Canada. He has seven best in shows and six reserve best in shows. And he’s only been showing for a year.”

The idea to start her own pet boarding business came while she was working as a business analyst for Jazz Aviation. When she would travel, she couldn’t find a convenient place to board her pets.

“I had to drive like an hour out of the way just to board my dogs when I was traveling. And as a business analyst, I asked ‘why is there no boarding at an international airport?’ So I did my research and we were the only international airport at that time that didn’t have any pet boarding within so many kilometers of the terminal.”

In 2015, Francis first told executives at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport about her idea. After that, it was just waiting for the right location. Covid-19 also delayed any potential opening.

Air Buddies can take 25 dogs and six cats, as well as some other pets (Francis recently looked after a client’s guinea pig). The facility has a staff member available 24/7 to accommodate awkward departure and arrival times.

Air Buddies can accommodate dogs of all sizes and personalities. If they are friendly with other dogs, there is room for them to play.

“And if they’re not dog-friendly, that’s okay because we have a huge backyard where we take them out and exercise them throughout the day as well,” explained Francis.

Boarding a dog is $45 a night plus tax. For cats it’s $28 plus tax. There are also day rates and deals if you are boarding more than one animal that can share a space.

Sometimes Air Buddies get long-term visitors. Francis recently had a dog stay 30 for days. When asked what is the most difficult part of running her business, Francis said it is seeing the animals leave.

“I actually don’t like seeing them go because you become attached.”

Derek Montague is a Huddle reporter in Halifax. Send him your feedback and story ideas: [email protected]

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