Walk into Purrs and Paws, which held its grand opening this week, and it’s strangely quiet even though there’s lots of dogs with tails waving and ready to greet newcomers with a smooch.
Kim Parlato has it planned that way.
“It has to be a calm structured environment,” said Kim whose dream has been to open a facility that offers dog daycare, boarding, training and grooming. As the name implies, Purrs and Paws also accommodates cats.
From dream to reality is a long story that starts when Kim was a student at CCRI and her neighbor was the late Paul Sherlock. Sherlock, who was a State Representative and worked closely with the Trudeau Memorial Center, asked Kim if she could drop his son, Tim, off at the center. That was in 1985.
That visit evolved into a job at the center and Kim meeting Diane Bates, a client at Trudeau.
Diane’s picture in the center of tree with dog photos at the end of each branch holds a featured spot at Purrs and Paws, as it should. Kim believes if it weren’t for Diane she would still be working at Trudeau.
Diane, who faced multiple challenges, lived with her mother, Evelyn. Kim come to know both of them and when Evelyn called to say she would be going into the hospital for surgery, Kim agreed to take Diane home with her.
It was good timing. Kim and her husband Craig had recently bought a home and had the room for Diane in addition to their two children. Diane stayed for two to three weeks and when Evelyn was discharged from the hospital the decision was make that Diane would be best off in a group home.
In her short stay with the Parlatos, Diane fell in love with their dog, Picasso. And after moving into the group home, Kim would bring her home to visit the dog and the rest of the family on Thursdays. It soon became apparent that Diane didn’t care for the group home and after talking with Evelyn, Kim agreed to have Diane move into their house.
The relationship even grew stronger when Evelyn learned she had cancer and knew she would need care. Evelyn moved in with the Parlatos, who had built an addition to their house. Mother and daughter we reunited. They slept in the same room. Early one April morning in 2009 Evelyn died and Diane became Kim’s responsibility. It was a full time job, as Diane’s physical condition was deteriorating and she was restricted to a wheelchair.
Knowing of Diane’s love for animals, Kim knew how to please her. She brought her to Rumford Aquarium to play with the puppies. Diane was radiant. She was thrilled until they left.
“She started hitting me,” recalls Kim, “she wanted me to bring all those puppies home.”
With Diane needing full time attention, Kim enrolled in an online course to become a dog trainer. As it turned out, Diane played a role, too. She would assist with training exercises.
“She could calm any dog down,” Kim said of Diane’s ability to relate to animals. But that interest wasn’t enough to sustain Diane. As her capabilities declined, physicians diagnosed her with a “failure to thrive,” said Kim. Diane refused to eat and the end came on New Year’s Day 2014 as Kim held her in her arms.
“It was the most beautiful and peaceful thing ever,” says Kim.
Kim knew that a dog care business would be the next step in her life and if it hadn’t been for Diane she would still be at Trudeau.
It wasn’t easy. After looking at multiple locations, she contacted Don Morash at Abbott Properties. Morash nixed some of the sites she thought might be suitable as not being convenient for her future customers. Then last year he called with what was the former with the former American Legion Hall, later to become Dancing Feeling at 272 Pettaconsett Avenue.
Kim saw the possibilities. She turned to her friends. John DiMauro, who was a kindergarten classmate and is now a contractor, helped design the build out. Another former classmate, Manny Carvahlo did the flooring, preserving the hardwood floors the dance studio used. The renovations included separate suites for boarding dogs whose owners want them separated from the rest of the pack.
Kim provides coverage 24/7 and doesn’t rely on monitors as do some boarding establishments.
“I would never leave my dogs,” she says.
Kim considers Purrs and Paws not only a place where people can leave their dog knowing it will be cared for, but also “an enrichment center.”
“They can’t be crazy and bark all day,” she said. Dogs are taken on “structured walks” and there’s even a treadmill for super active dogs.
“They love it,” she said of the treadmill.
Before accepting a dog for daycare or boarding, Kim conducts a two and a half-hour long evaluation. She said that’s the case whether it’s a 4-pound terrier or a Great Dane that stand six feet high on its hind legs.
Purrs and Paws is a family effort. Kim’s daughter, Kelsey, is a licensed groomer and her son, Dominic, who is a student at UMass Lowell and on the track team will be running the dogs. Craig even has a job.
“He’s kind of my maintenance man on weekends,” she said.
One thing is evident.
“Everyone who’s here has a love for animals,” said Kim. Diane would have fit right in.
Daycare hours are Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Grooming service hours are Tuesday through Saturday 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and boarding services are year round.
For more information, call 401-473-2911 or visit www.purrsandpawsri.com.
MEET AND GREET: Staff members at Purrs and Paws show off some of the regulars at the grand opening of the facility. (Warwick Beacon photos) SIT PRETTY: Kim Parlato stands alongside Mayor Scott Avedisian who snipped the ribbon Monday to officially open Purrs and Paws at 272 Pettaconsett Avenue. COMPANIONS: Kim Parlato with her two dogs that are regular visitors at Purrs and Paws.