New on the scene . . . InBark — a place to stay, play and spend the day

Cari Cooper moved to Portland from Florida just over three years ago. As a lifelong dog guardian and lover, one thing she liked right away about her new town was its thriving canine culture. She also soon discovered something else about Portland: mud.

After one outing, Cooper remembers thinking, “Wow, I love Portland, but there’s so much mud on the ground for so much of the year you practically have to wash your dog when you bring them in from playing.” Her realization eventually led to the idea behind InBark.

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What was needed, she thought, was an indoor park where dogs could play without the mess. Cooper called her friend Cindi Crimmel, who liked the idea and agreed to be a partner. Both women are lifelong dog-lovers, but this is their first foray in the pet industry.

“It seems like a good fit,” says Cooper. “We both came into it wanting to do something more than corporate America.” Judging from the happy pets and their people coming through InBark’s door, it’s a good fit all around.

Located in the crook of I-5 and 217 just north of Bridgeport Village in Beaverton, InBark is a unique hybrid of dog park, day care and boarding facility. The building sprawls over 14,000 square feet, complete with kennels and runs for boarding. Also on the menu is the InBark Suite — furnished with bed, nightstands and TV, where one or more dogs should feel right at home.

“A lot of folks are concerned because maybe their dog hasn’t been kenneled before,” says Cooper, “so we want to provide an experience that’s more like they would have at home.” Booked through the holidays, the InBark Suite has already proven to be a hit.

Every detail of the facility, from checkerboard linoleum tiles to a self-serve dog wash, is designed with pet parents in mind. Yet the details are easy to miss when absorbing InBark’s main feature: 5,000 square feet of ersatz sod.

With cushy backing, the synthetic, mid-length blades feel like a spongy, well-thatched lawn. A fence separates the lawn into a large rectangle for optimal ball-throwing; a smaller area provides for diminutive, shy, or more temperamental types. Against the long wall is a waist-high water feature. The shallow pool at the base is ideal for a quick drink or a luxurious soak.

For owners concerned about sanitation, messes are removed and then soaked with Simple Green, and all the grass is saturated nightly with veterinary disinfectant. In fact, because each dog must provide current vaccination records, some guardians bring their puppies to InBark because they needn’t worry about some viruses they might be exposed to at a dog park.

 Cari Cooper, with another happy customer.

Cari Cooper, with another happy customer.

Possession of a pooch isn’t necessarily required to enjoy the sense of community, not to mention the controlled climate and full-spectrum lighting. “There are a couple of folks who don’t have dogs who just come in and want to pet the dogs and get their dog fix,” says Cooper.

The full measure of InBark’s popularity is shown by dogs coming through the door. Shannon Henessey, dropping off her black Lab mix Tiki for daycare while I interviewed Cooper, said, “We go for both daycare and pop-in playdays, and she never leaves disappointed. It immediately became her favorite place to play.” 

To illustrate the point, Tiki kept trying to open the door into the park area. Cooper didn’t bat an eye. “That’s why I keep the door to the front desk locked.”

InBark officially opened in June. Hours 7-8 Monday through Saturday, 10-5 Sunday. Park fees start at $8/dog for all-day in and out privileges. Bulk packages are available. Stop by, or learn more at www.goinbark.org.

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Jake Faris is a freelance writer who's worn many different hats, including a hardhat and the 8-point hat of a police officer. Jake and his wife Charity live with their three cats and four dogs in Beaverton. The whole pack moved to Portland from Wenatchee, Washington, years ago. Now a dedicated Oregonian, Jake finds new reasons to love his adopted state very day. Contact him here