Utah Pets

A Place Where Old Dogs Can Learn New Tricks—Barley’s Canine Recreation Center

Combining multiple therapies improves the quality of life for older dogs and keeps them younger longer, making fitness fun for dogs and their owners.


Photo Courtesy of Mike Parmley.

When Heather Newport’s dog, Barley, passed away, she was devastated by the loss of her loyal canine companion.

Barley was a chocolate lab that lived to be 15-and-a-half years old—more than 108 in human years. According to Mike Parmley, Heather’s boyfriend, Barley died of old age. “Her organs just started shutting down,” he said. “She had been through a lot of stuff. She had a vestibular rupture. She recovered from that. She had a stomach twisting thing. She recovered from that. She had some kidney issues, and that’s pretty much what took her. She was a tough dog. She was a really good dog. She was our main motivation for starting this place.”

“This place” is called Barley’s. “We started the business about a year after she passed,” Mike tells me, “so this is our dedication to her.”

About four in every ten American homes has at least one dog, and Utahns own approximately 370,000 dogs. There are city dogs, country dogs, and suburban dogs. Some dogs earn their keep, while others lead lives of leisure. Many of these lucky pooches are treated just like members of the family, and some are treated even better, but they all have one thing in common—just like people, they all get old eventually.

As Barley got older, her brain wanted to keep going but her body couldn’t keep up. With arthritis in her back legs, it was hard to exercise her because she couldn’t walk very far, so Mike and Heather took her swimming instead. Being a lab, she loved the water.

After losing Barley, and after tiring of their stressful day jobs, Mike and Heather talked about opening a fun place for dogs. “Old dogs were our main motivation,” Mike recalls. “It would be fun if they could swim. It would be fun for younger dogs, and it would be good for older dogs with arthritis.”

Mike’s dogs, Brandy and Beyla, had already benefited from aquatic therapy. Beyla was over 14-years-old when she passed, and right up to the end, Mike saw improvements to her health from swimming, because the non-weight-bearing exercise helped maintain the strength in her back legs.

The same was true of acupuncture, a therapy that helps the body heal itself. Inspired by his own experience with acupuncture for his back, Mike tried it with Barley and Beyla, and knew it was a valuable treatment method.

Chiropractic is another therapy Barley’s offers, along with massage. “To see the results (of combined therapies) is amazing,” Mike says. “If your dog can’t stand up and go out to the bathroom on its own, then maybe it’s time. But to be able to give them relief and allow them to do it on their own is great.”

Combining multiple therapies into a consolidated health regimen improves the quality of life for older dogs and keeps them younger longer, making fitness fun for dogs and their owners. Treatments are administered by licensed practitioners.

In addition to the pool, Barley’s provides a day care lounge for socializing, private or group training, walking and hiking, pet-sitting at either the owner’s home or the sitter’s home, and a dog wash. Coincidentally, there is a grooming facility next door.

In a related side-business, Mike offers rattlesnake avoidance training for dogs that hike or trail run with their humans.

“We care about dogs a lot,” Mike says. “We don’t have kids. Our dogs are our kids.”

Barley’s Canine Rec Center is located at 2827 S 2300 E. For daycare hours, rates, and pool times, go to their website, or call 801-467-6069.

Click here for information about rattlesnake avoidance training for dogs.

Photo by David E. Jensen

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