It’s a Dog’s Life … and Now It’s Mine

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If you had told me a little over a year ago that I’d be living in Las Vegas and opening the gates to a facility that would endeavor to change the face of the urban dog experience, I’d have told you that it sounded nice … but that you were crazy.

And today, Saturday, December 21, 2013, that is precisely what I will be doing.

Hello and welcome to the inauguration of the blog for The Hydrant Club – a social club for urban canines and their humans headquartered in Downtown Las Vegas.

I won’t belabor the entire tale now, we’ll have plenty of time to get to know each other and peel the layers of the onion, but I’ll give you the broad brushstrokes behind the inception of this business and the philosophy that drives it.

It began in May 2012. I’d spent the better part of the year prior to that time taking a long, hard look at the work I’d been doing for nearly two decades. Having landed in the tech industry right about at the time when things began to explode into consumer awareness (that would be around 1991), I’d spent years working with remarkable people, having great adventures and enjoying very little of it. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the people with whom I worked and relished the amazing opportunities. In the end, though, it was always a forced feeding for me, because the truth is that my path began with animals (dogs, specifically) and while my Silicon Valley trek took me hither and yon and up and down, no matter where that path wove, working with animals was an ever present experience.

The catalyzing moment felt like anything but. It was a casual conversation grabbed outside a conference hotel with a tech industry acquaintance whose insight and opinion was one I respected and who I’d grabbed for a quick chat to test out some ideas for a new career. That person was Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh. I mentioned to him that I was looking to make a change. I mentioned that I was tired of the path on which I’d been trudging and that time had come for an evolution.

He smiled and invited me to come visit Las Vegas … in the summer.

Now being a resident of the Silver State and having endured my first desert summer I can attest to the fact that the words blistering and punishing are quite accurate to describe the blast furnace that can be June, July and August. Tony’s invitation, however, intrigued me both because he offered it with such a quiet smile. And because he extended the invitation to my dog, Truman.

Truman at Red Rock

Truman at Red Rock

Jump forward to August 2012 when Truman and I roll into town for what was to be a 10 day immersion into the rapidly evolving Downtown Project. That immersion sparked an idea to reinterpret the concept of a canine-focused facility – shifting the focus from providing care for dogs, to providing a holistic approach to the entire canine-human experience. With education, community and learning at its core, wrapped in a setting designed for social engagement and play with services that made having a dog in an urban environment easier.

Six months later, I rolled into Las Vegas … literally.

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I hit the ground running with some plans that had been shoved underway while I was still in San Francisco. Working remotely had been difficult so I was eager to be on the ground to get things going.

Here’s the thing. I came from the tech industry. It’s a world where you have an idea on Monday, discuss it on Tuesday, give it to coders on a Wednesday, tweak on a Thursday and have product launched by Friday.

Okay, so maybe it’s not quite that quick a turnaround, but darn near to it in most cases.

Working in the decidedly brick and mortar world was something else entirely – totally out of my wheelhouse. As with how the rest of this fairy tale has gone, however, the universe saw fit to place some truly remarkable human beings in my path, people whose input, insights, guidance, coaxing, kindness, support and sometimes tough love are really the only reason that The Hydrant Club is now opening its doors.

Okay so that’s a slight oversimplification … we’d have opened, but it would have taken a hell of a lot longer, been a hell of a lot more painful and I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be nearly as awesome as it is right now. You will get to meet all of the folks behind Hydrant Club’s creation over time, but for now a quick list of the people without whom this project would not have been possible.

Trinity Schlottman of Trinity Haven Development. I’m pretty sure that Trinity is actually magic. Kind of like a unicorn. In addition to having infinite patience and a truly gracious attitude towards educating his clients (I asked questions incessantly and Trinity never brushed me off, but rather helped me learn along the way), there is no question that Trinity’s deep ties to Downtown Las Vegas and strong understanding of how this city operates put him in a special class when it comes to construction and development. All of his talent and skill pale in comparison to the enormous heart and kindness that this soft-spoken gentle man generates. Especially in these last few days if it weren’t for Trinity I’m pretty sure that my brain would have spontaneously combusted.

Tina Wischman and Craig Palacios of BunnyFishStudio – an architectural team who, like Trinity, have a powerful and deep connection to Downtown Las Vegas and even bigger hearts. I’d first heard of this dynamic duo through a friend who’d used them for her own business. “You must use Craig and Tina,” she said to me as I sat in San Francisco trying to figure out how I’d be able to build this business. “They’re just remarkable. They’re not just great architects, they’re great people.”  My friend was right. Going above and beyond the call of duty on more occasions than I could count, proffering more of their time than anything contractually obligated and indeed while they had (and still have) a monumental number of projects that are, perhaps, larger scale on all fronts, I never felt that my project was anything less than their top priority.

There are many more people to thank -Don Welch, Rob Solomon, Barry Conrad, Paul Cline and Kim Schaefer from The Downtown Project; Sam Hammond from GTI Landscaping; Kurt Hoopes and James (oh dear, spacing on his last name. Sorry James) from Focus Plumbing; Chris Attanasio from Attanasio Landscape Architecture; and Carl Coscio from XTreme MetalWorks for our namesake 14-foot-tall hydrant. The list goes on, but right now time does too and I/m writing this at just about 2am on the day of our soft opening … so I have to get some shut-eye.

Bottom line is this … I’m honored to have the opportunity to be doing this work, to have the blessing of working with such amazing people and the true gift of being able to bring my passion to life in a way that I hope will help many people.

Welcome to The Hydrant Club … I hope you find some magic here under our trees.

Woof,

Cathy

Chief Human Officer
The Hydrant Club