Joco 913

Anxious pup? On the Ball owner creates environment that welcomes all dogs

Meagan Dowell spends some time with the dogs at her dog daycare, On the Ball.
Meagan Dowell spends some time with the dogs at her dog daycare, On the Ball. Special to The Star

For owner Meagan Dowell, On the Ball dog daycare is a labor of love. Dowell left her job as a CPA at CBIZ to pursue a life filled with one of her biggest passions: dogs.

“I knew if I ever left CBIZ, it wouldn’t be to pursue accounting somewhere else,” she said.

On the Ball, at 3909 Prairie Lane in the Prairie Village Shops, had its grand opening in May. It caters, in part, to dogs who have trouble finding a comfortable fit in other centers.

Her own dogs had had some trouble with other daycares’ standards, and Dowell wanted to create a different environment for her daycare and welcome all dogs, whether they be small and anxious or simply in need of a little extra TLC.

“Our eldest rescue is a little Italian greyhound mix, and she’s very fearful around people that she doesn’t know. Her circle of trust is very small. And then our middle child is a big lab-shepherd-collie mix, and he is fearful around other dogs that he doesn’t know.

“They’re amazing dogs at home. It’s just that they have unique needs that if you’re not careful, it could lead to a bad situation.”

And location was considered carefully before Dowell opened the daycare.

“It’s such a dog-friendly neighborhood community that having something within walking distance of people’s homes is something that they desire. I live here in Prairie Village, and I, personally, wanted to have something in the town that I live in.”

Initially, Dowell didn’t advertise too much.

“Not to be the overly optimistic entrepreneur that we would open our doors and 60 dogs would walk in the first day, but I was like, ‘Oh God, what if 60 dogs walk in the first day? What are we going to do?’ So I wanted to slowly ramp up and see what procedures look like with 15 dogs,” Dowell said.

“I didn’t want to put dogs into a specific box, like we only take this breed, or if your dog acts a certain way. I wanted to be able to offer care plans for dogs that potentially maybe don’t fit into the box of a typical daycare establishment.”

That includes timid dogs or ones that need to learn how to play well with other dogs.

One dog, when it first started at On the Ball, spent the whole four-hour session whining at the door, but now, Dowell said, the dog loves to be there and “is the life of the party.”

Dowell separates the dogs by size and energy levels. There are small rooms and kennels in the back for when a dog needs time by itself, either to get a break from the other dogs or to chill out after getting too aggressive.

“There’s plans for kids that have disabilities or unique needs or learning disabilities, and dogs encounter those same issues. They have a hard time understanding social cues. My dogs are my children, and a lot of people, it’s the same way for them,” she said.

When someone brings in a dog, workers ask about food issues, disabilities or heath issues.

“We want the dogs to be comfortable here, and knowing their limitations lets us create a more relaxing atmosphere for them while they’re here with us,” Dowell said.

People bring dogs to On the Ball either for care while they’re at work, to get extra attention or just to give them time in an environment with other dogs.

“I wanted a daycare that didn’t look, smell or sound like a doggy daycare. I wanted it to have more of a spa-like relaxing feel to it when you walk in. I didn’t want you to hear deafening barking.”

Dowell tried to design an environment that wouldn’t make dogs — or their owners — nervous or anxious.

In addition to daycare and overnight care, Dowell also offers grooming services. Most of the dogs spend about eight or nine hours a day there.

Prairie Village resident Phil Scaglia brings his Australian shepherd, Olive, to On the Ball.

“I love that Meagan is there every morning that I drop Olive off. She really cares about the dogs,” he said. “She knows every dog that comes in there. She knows their owners. It’s just a positive experience.”