A Canine Community in Kalamazoo0
Back in early 2010, the 24 acres at the corner of South 8th Street and West KL Avenue in Oshtemo Township were nothing more exciting than a cornfield. Today, the property is home to a dog-oriented complex made up of the , a fully enclosed, off-leash private dog park; The Thirsty Hound public dog-friendly tavern; a second location Camp Fido Dog Daycare and Tip Top Tails Dog Training.
How did the space go from growing corn to entertaining canines? What started as "kind of a selfish project" for Patty Rupple has become a thriving campus of canine hospitality. Along with her husband Chris, Ruppel started the members-only park in 2010 because she wanted a place to hang out with her dogs. Today, Meadow Run Dog Park has over 400 dog members representing all breeds, ages, shapes and sizes.
"It's a little community," Ruppel says. "People meet here with their dogs, develop relationships and look out for each other."
In 2017, after enjoying the dog park for several years, Ruppel and Camp Fido owner Kerry Mulholland started working on ideas for Phase II: the development of Meadow Run Knoll ("The Knoll"). Ruppel's goal was to create a new dog-friendly business of some kind, but to avoid competing with existing canine-focused businesses in the area. Additionally, Mulholland had been considering expansion based on the success of Camp Fido on Stadium Drive and it's six-month waiting list for new clients. Two concepts surfaced. First, the idea of branching out with Camp Fido to a second campus on the property. Next, Ruppel expanded that idea to include a space for a dog-friendly tavern - indoors and out - something that was not currently available in the Kalamazoo area. The Thirsty Hound, the first Michigan dog-friendly eating and drinking establishment, was born!
They worked with local builder Jim Roberts to construct a multipurpose building on the east side of the property. Both Roberts and Oshtemo Township had been supportive of the property development for the dog park, and construction on The Knoll started in July of 2017. A ground-breaking ceremony brought out dignitaries like State Senator Margaret O'Brien, and even included a champagne toast. Rains and nearby sewer project delays pushed the original opening date back a bit, but the first Puppy Day School was hosted by Tip Top Tails at the new, multi-purpose facility in December of 2017.
The new building houses Camp Fido Dog Daycare, Tip Top Tails Dog Training and The Thirsty Hound Tavern. The Knoll is primarily home to small campers, senior dogs and campers who are also members of the dog park, allowing them access to the dog park with the wranglers during the day. Tip Top Tails began offering classes in January 2018 in their first permanent home after 10 years in the area, and the tavern opened in March of 2018.
The Thirsty Hound features indoor seating for 36 overlooking the rolling hills of Meadow Run Dog Park. Additionally, an outdoor patio, with tables and sun umbrellas, provides another 12 prime seats for a sunny view of the dog park's doggie pond and "dive platform." Pre-packaged food and beverages are sold concession stand-style, including popular gourmet ice cream bars and doggie yogurt. Ruppel hopes to eventually expand the menu with approval from the Kalamazoo County Health Department. In the interim, popular local food trucks sell their wares in The Knoll parking lot on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4 pm to 7 pm.
As of this writing, The Thirsty Hound is in the final stages of liquor license approval. Ruppel had hoped to open the establishment with the license in hand, but with unforeseen issues in this complex process.
"Despite the challenges, we've met other goals that kept the project moving," says Ruppel. "Everything happens for a reason."
The Thirsty Hound, at 1030 South 8th Street, is open to the public and their canine companions Tuesday through Saturday from 3 pm to 8pm. Bring your best friend and enjoy the company and the view!