Dogs take over Tender Care while owners take vacation

Nick Stroman
“Bandit” peaks his head over the window in his boarding kennel at Tender Care Animal Hospital in Morton. The summer months are particularly busy for the business as pet owners vacation and leave their dogs in Morton.

There have naturally been many “dog days of summer” at Tender Care Animal Hospital in Morton since it opened its doors 10 years ago.

However, the weekend holiday was one for the books.

Hospital manager Tracy Baxter said the facility boasted 65 animals in its pet boarding program over the Independence Day weekend.

A typical day or weekend runs closer to 35 or 40 animals.

“Our business tends to increase in the summer due to vacations and then around the holidays as well. Even with the economy slowing us down in reservations, we seem to be holding steady with the kennel numbers this year,” Baxter said.

Baxter said Independence Day is a big time of the year for them because many pets are stressed out from the fireworks and noise surrounding the holiday.

Baxter said the full-service veterinary clinic has all kinds of options for families who need their pets watched and is open Monday through Saturday.

“There is no minimum and max for days needed. I think it’s harder for people to find people they trust to watch their animal on a regular basis out of their homes,” Baxter said.

Baxter added they have customers from all over Tazewell County, including Morton, East Peoria, Pekin and Tremont.

Baxter said on busy weekends such as this last one, it makes the staff think about expansion plans.

“There are times we feel like we have dogs coming out of every corner of the building and feel we should grow, especially on days with 65 to 70 dogs. But more room is going to take more maintenance and staff, and who knows if we can keep up?” Baxter said.

“We are staying status quo for now. Our workers have a great system going back there,” Baxter added.

Baxter said the regular staff is usually around 25 workers during the week, with a dozen additional dog walkers brought on board in the summer.

“Sometimes there are some additional items which need to be done to the pets. It could medications, special diets or extra playtime. We cater to each animal’s needs,” Baxter said.

Baxter added one of the biggest obligations is to make sure the animals get out in the play area to use the bathroom, giving workers an opportunity to sanitize the kennel areas.

“Two cages are emptied out at a time and row by row. Once done with that, it’s time to make the checklist for meds and food. It’s a crazy system sometimes for this many animals, but it works,” Baxter said with a laugh.

Baxter said each animal has its own kennel, unless there is more than one pet from the same family.

“In the winter, floors are heated. In the summer, we have the air conditioning,” Baxter said.

Baxter said they have many repeat customers at Tender Care, leading the workers to get familiar with many of the animals.

“Some families come back throughout the year for their vacations or whatnot. We also do doggy daycare, so there are customers we see on a daily basis, too,” Baxter said.

Baxter said the regular pets have an advantage because they get a little more attention from the staff who already know their personalities and they also come in a little more relaxed.

“People have to realize that pet boarding can be very stressful on the animal. The regulars are used to all of the barking and the environment, but the newer ones get fearful,” Baxter said.

Baxter said the animal hospital offers tours of the facility for families who are a little skittish.

“We get every reason and every excuse, and we welcome anyone. In the summer, there are more outside events or people are having parties where they don’t want the pets around lots of people,” Baxter said.

“At least here they have air conditioning and are fed well,” Baxter added.

Tender Care Animal Hospital is located at 300 E. Courtland in Morton.

For more information on the boarding program or the rest of the hospital’s services, call 266-1182, or visit