Camp Lisa, Where Happy Is the Bottom Line
By Kathy Hosler
Photos provided by Lisa Gillet
“The dogs here are happy,” says Lisa Gillett, owner of Camp Lisa. “We are almost like a second home to them.”
In 1992, Lisa started a small business taking care of dogs in her home. “One of my first clients said to me, ‘Lisa, when I take my dog to you, it’s like she’s going to camp. She comes home tired, dirty, and happy.’ And that’s how Camp Lisa was created.
“I spent years thinking about the kind of facility I would build if I could get a large enough piece of property—and it finally happened,” Lisa shares.
Lisa found her ideal piece of land in Newcastle, California, which is a bit over 12 acres. Now she could build the facility she wanted, and Lisa could live right there on the property. She planned to erect a building that would provide dogs with a home-like experience. She didn’t want the biggest or fanciest facility, or one with lots of meaningless frills to impress people; Lisa wanted a cage-free setting that would meet the wants and needs of her canine guests, and provide for their safety and comfort. That was the driving force behind all her building decisions.
The construction of Camp Lisa began and soon her ideas manifested into reality. Camp Lisa Dog Boarding opened its doors in 2018. The gorgeous clear-span building allows Lisa and her staff an unobstructed view of the dogs at all times. In a true home-like environment, most of the rooms are a spacious 10′ X 10′, but that’s only the beginning. Each room, which can house a group of five to six dogs, has its own 10′ X 20′ covered outdoor patio and an additional 20′ X 80′ play yard of natural grass which the dogs have 24/7 access to. Water misters were installed on the patios to provide a cooling and refreshing outdoor area where the dogs can relax in comfort while they enjoy the shade.
On the little dog side, there are four spacious rooms, each with covered outside patios and a smaller play yard area. Their play area is covered with game bird netting to protect the small dogs from the hawks and owls that frequent that part of the state.
“No one’s going to be dinner on my watch,” says Lisa with a hearty chuckle. But she is dead serious about the safety of every guest at Camp Lisa. Safety and security start at their property line. They have a 1,000-foot-long driveway with an entrance gate and clients have to call them to open the gate so they can enter.
“We can care for about 45 dogs daily,” Lisa says. “Most of our clients come from personal recommendations from existing clients and the local veterinarians and trainers.
“I am really careful about the dogs I accept,” she continues. “I only take ‘nice’ dogs. I require a meet and greet with every dog before it comes to be boarded. If I see any issues or red flags, I have no problem refusing the dog. And I take age, breed, temperament, and size into consideration when putting dogs together. I’ve found that by putting a small group of compatible dogs together in a family-style situation, their anxiety level drops and they really enjoy the companionship of each other.
“Camp Lisa may not be a good fit for everyone, but my policies keep things running smoothly,” Lisa says. “In thirty years, I have never had a true dog fight, and we have only had a handful of minor altercations. We have a good track record and great reviews. When people bring their dogs to us they know that they are going to be safe and secure.”
Camp Lisa is a family run business. In addition to Lisa, her nephew, Tyler Gillett, and her youngest son, Casey Kiriaze, operate everything.
“I didn’t want to have staff members who just ‘love dogs;’ I needed someone who has the knowledge to read the dogs and understand them,” Lisa continues. “Someone who can keep them in a safe and secure place without letting anything escalate or get out of control.”
This close-knit team gives personal attention to each dog in their care. Clients love that their dogs don’t come home stressed out. And, in addition to providing stellar care for the dogs, making sure their health needs are met is of the utmost importance to Lisa.
“I have always said that moving air is healthy air,” says Lisa. “We have a huge fan on at all times. We use evaporative swamp coolers in the summer and have radiant heat installed in our floors to keep the dogs warm and comfy in the cooler weather. This works very well for the dogs and there is no extreme temperature change from hot to cold when they go from the outside to inside.
“We are what is known as a ‘dry kennel.’ We don’t hose down the rooms every day. Since the pups have 24-hour access to their outdoor areas, they go potty outside—just like at home. Our facility always smells fresh and clean,” Lisa shares.
Camp Lisa’s transparency sets them apart from others. When someone walks in their door, they see everything, including where the groups of dogs are and how well they interact together. There is no incessant barking or constant pacing. The dogs are just hanging out like they are at home, playing with each other or taking a nap.
“I’m also really proud of my website, www.camplisadogboarding.com,” Lisa says. “It’s filled with lots of information and pictures, and I answer questions and post all of my requirements and charges. I want everyone who goes to the website to understand what they are coming in to.”
Lisa also has a Facebook page that her clients and even non-dog people like. She posts pictures of dogs, cartoons, and also fun and informational articles.
Camp Lisa is wildly popular. They were voted a three-time winner for Overnight Dog Boarding Facility in the Best of the Beast of the Bay Awards, put on by Bay Woof Magazine.
So, what does the future hold for this award-winning canine retreat?
“I love what I do. This is what I have always wanted. I’m surrounded by happy dogs and I’m content,” says a beaming Lisa. “It’s good here, really good here. The dogs here are happy, their owners are happy, and I am happy. That’s the bottom line. Who could ask for more?”