Find­ing a sense of com­mu­nity

GA Voice - - Pets -

As a child, Shel­ton Stro­man and his fam­ily had pets. And when he was in col­lege, he had a dog. But af­ter his dog died, Stro­man swore off pets.

“I was heart­bro­ken. It was like los­ing a child,” he said.

But his love for an­i­mals re­mained and he quit a com­puter ca­reer to work at a vet­eri­nary clinic as the prac­tice man­ager where his then part­ner, now hus­band, Christopher In­nis, worked.

“I met Chris and he was a vet and he had pets. I fell in love with his pets … and I went from work­ing at a com­puter com­pany to work­ing at a pet hos­pi­tal,” Stro­man said.

Stro­man man­aged the prac­tice for eight years. Then, about five years ago, an­other com­pany pur­chased the vet­eri­nary clinic. It was then that Stro­man de­cided he wanted to strike out on his own.

He pitched his idea of a pet ho­tel and re­sort – an up­scale board­ing ser­vice – to In­nis.

“And he was like, ‘Re­ally?’” Stro­man said, laugh­ing.

But af­ter a night of crunch­ing num­bers and care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion, In­nis was on board, and their busi­ness, Snel­lville Pet Re­sort, be­came a re­al­ity, open­ing up in 2011.

Stro­man man­ages the busi­ness while In­nis, who works for Ban­field Pet Hos­pi­tal, serves as the re­sort’s doc­tor.

“I thought a pet re­sort was some­thing that was miss­ing in this area – most board­ing fa­cil­i­ties put pets in cages and there wasn’t a place as up­scale,” Stro­man said.

‘These pets truly are their kids’

Stro­man said the fa­cil­ity of­fers 152 dif­fer­ent rooms, from a “stan­dard suite” to a “pent­house suite” com­plete with a queen­sized bed. Some rooms are equipped with

July 8, 2016

flat-screen TVs that stay on for the pets be­cause that is what they are used to at home, Stro­man said. Rooms are also avail­able for peo­ple with three or more pets.

Dur­ing hol­i­days, such as the Fourth of July and Thanks­giv­ing and Christ­mas, the pets are treated to hol­i­day meals com­plete with “pup dogs” or turkey and dress­ing. But the food is ac­tu­ally nu­tri­tional pet food made to look like hu­man food, Stro­man said.

“Chris is a vet so he makes sure the pets get ap­pro­pri­ate foods,” he said.

Pho­tos of the pets eat­ing their hol­i­day meal are then posted to Face­book so clients can see how they are do­ing.

Most pets boarded are dogs. There are plenty of rooms for cats, too, but of­ten­times there are some open rooms. That’s when Stro­man said his pet ho­tel makes room for some dif­fer­ent kinds of pets.

De­pend­ing on the spe­cial in­struc­tions, Stro­man said he is able to board ex­otic pets. The oc­ca­sional iguana is boarded, for ex­am­ple, he said.

“We usu­ally get them dur­ing off days – be­cause peo­ple with ex­otic pets most likely don’t have kids,” he said. “These pets truly are their kids.”

The strangest pet housed by Snel­lville Pet Re­sort, how­ever, is a pot-bel­lied pig.

“We put hay down and take in a slop bucket. Lucky for me I was raised on a farm, so it was okay with me. The fam­ily came in and asked and I said, yes, we can make that hap­pen,” Stro­man said. “And they’re a re­turn client – they come in every two years.”

Stro­man and In­nis, who have been to­gether for 15 years and mar­ried in May, were part of the Lambda Le­gal lawsuit against Ge­or­gia to bring same-sex mar­riage to the state. In­nis was the lead de­fen­dant in the suit known as In­nis v. Ader­hold. Top photo: Shel­ton Stro­man (left) and Christopher In­nis (right) are part­ners in life and busi­ness as own­ers of Snel­lville Pet Re­sort. Bot­tom: The cou­ples love for an­i­mals range from do­mes­tic pets to ex­otic. (Pho­tos via Face­book)

At home, Stro­man, In­nis and their son, Jonathan, 11, have a Jack Rus­sell ter­rier named Ha­ley, a chi­huaua mix named Rocco and a gecko named Mis­ter. “That’s Mis­ter with a pe­riod,” Stro­man said.

Their home is also a reg­u­lar fos­ter home for dogs and cats need­ing re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion. As a vet with Ban­field, which is housed in PetS­mart stores, In­nis is in reg­u­lar con­tact with these an­i­mals – and he of­ten brings them home.

“He doesn’t want to see a pet put down so he brings them home and we re­hab them. He

By DYANA BAGBY

brings pets from ev­ery­where,” Stro­man said.

Open­ing and op­er­at­ing a pet ho­tel is just one way Stro­man said he and his fam­ily con­trib­ute to their com­mu­nity. The fam­ily’s home is also a pop­u­lar spot for neigh­bor­hood kids to hang out with their son.

“We want to feel a sense of com­mu­nity – that’s some­times dif­fi­cult when you are part of a same-sex cou­ple,” he said.

“We like tak­ing care of kids, and we like tak­ing care of pets,” Stro­man said. “Me and my hus­band do [both] quite well.”

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