DogVacay pairs up pets with other owners

June 26, 2012 (CHICAGO)

Forget boarding, or finding friends or family to watch the pup while you are on vacation. A new service in Chicago called Dog Vacay is connecting dog owners with real homes to board your dog. It could save you half on what you might pay at a boarding facility.

An alternative to traditional boarding, pairs up pets with other owners while you enjoy your summer vacation.

Diana Dejacimo loves her dogs Chaser and Doc. She travels often for work and says finding someone to take good care of them while she's away can be challenging.

"I had people come over to the house sometimes and house and dog sit and that's kind of a mixed bag," Diana Dejacimo, dog owner, said.

Kennels are an option, but Diana prefers that her pets not be cooped up in a cage. She is among the first in the Chicago area to try out a new alternative to traditional boarding and kennels. is a web-based startup by Aaron Hirschhorn and his wife, Karine. The California host played host to plenty of pups, along with their own dogs, and when the cash came in, the idea for was born.

"The big thing for me was my dogs are, when I'm not home, they have like three rooms to roam in," Diana said. "They're in somebody's house, they sleep in their regular beds, they go in the backyard, so it's just like being on vacation really."

"After eight months, business was booming. We'd made $30,000, paid for our wedding and there was a business model here. We thought why doesn't this exist as a national service," Hirschhorn said. is really a free matchmaking service for dogs and for those who love them. Users create an account, enter information about their dog, browse hundreds of homes in the Chicagoland area and then select a potential host family based on their place, the owner and the family's dogs.

"Hosts set their own rates. The average price is under $30 a night compared to the average kennel in Chicago is over 50. So you'll save money as a dog owner and be giving your dog a better experience," Hirschhorn said.

"It seemed like the perfect fit for me," Sheryl Ostfield said.

Sheryl Ostfield of Chicago is happy to open her home to a few extra pups. And as an added bonus, she earns a little extra cash as being a host family.

"I think that I offer a lot more for that money than the boarding facilities do. They can run free in the yard. I offer a variety of additional services if they want to be walked additionally that's fine they can basically request whichever services they like at no additional charge," Ostfield said.

"They get their meal in the morning and biscuits at night after their night walk," Holly Schroeder said. And it's a lifelong love for dogs that led Schroeder to sign up to be a host family.

"I just really enjoy doing it. The kennel just doesn't work. It's so much more comfortable for them if they're in a home environment. And you get a lot more love and individual care," Schroeder said.

All host families through dogvacay have been screened and interviewed. Insurance coverage is included in the fee you pay in the rare event that anything goes wrong.

Many hosts even send photos of the pup for their owners while they are away. Money is never exchanged, instead dog owners pay through paypal.

Dog vacay takes between a 5- and 10- percent fee off the rates that the hosts set.

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