Kacey Cooper has always worked with dogs, so opening her own dog kennel was a natural fit.
“For my first job I would go around the neighborhood, and for like a dime I’d walk people’s dogs or brush them,” Cooper said. “So I’ve been doing this thing my whole life.”
Cooper is the owner of Cooper’s Wounded Bear Farm and Kennels, which she started in 1984. She said it began as a favor to her friends, but the need grew and so did her business. She started operating out of her garage but has since built a dedicated area for her business on her property in Kasilof.
“I always liked dogs and have been working with dogs my whole life and there was nowhere for people to keep their dogs around here,” Cooper said. “On the peninsula, there was like one kennel at the time. Most of the time people left their dogs at home or left the dog with the neighbor who watched them. I started doing it for friends and then other people started asking me… it just kind of progressed from there.”
Cooper’s St. Bernard, Bear, was laying on her deck sleeping, when Cooper came up with the name Wounded Bear, for her business.
“He was dreaming and he rolled over and fell off the deck and wounded his paw, and we were like ‘Aw, wounded Bear,’” Cooper said. “People always think that we keep wounded bears.”
Q: Since opening up in 1984, have more kennels opened up in the area?
A: Oh yes, a bunch of them. There’s like four or five other kennels nowadays, so it’s a growing business
Q: Do you see a steady flow of dogs coming to your kennels throughout the year?
A: Most of the time it’s pretty steady. It’s usually, obviously, busier during holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving. I’ve given up trying to figure out when it’s going to be busy. It used to be September when everything was dead, you know, right after people went back to school, but lately it’s been really busy.
Q: How have you grown since ‘84?
A: I’ve grown a lot since ‘84. It’s kind of leveled off the last few years because there are more kennels. The demographics are changing. If people live in town, I’m not a good place for them to daycare, you know because they don’t want to drive to Kasilof. But people who live out here and want dog daycare bring their dogs for that. I’d say it’s steady with some growth.
Q: How do you get the word out about your business?
A: What I’m finding out about growing my business nowadays is marketing. I need to do the Facebook stuff, which I’m not very good at. I’ve got a website. I’ve got an ad in the phone book and I get a lot of word of mouth because I’ve been here for so long. I get a lot of referrals that way.
Q: Does your location work well for your business?
A: Yeah, it’s kind of central. I get a lot of dogs from Homer and Ninilchik. I have dogs that come from Nikiski. I actually have a customer that comes all the way from Cordova to bring me their dogs. I’ve been doing it long enough where a lot of my customers are actually the grandchildren of my original customers.
Q: What is most unique about your facility?
A: Our big deal is a safe, fun place for the dogs to be. The dogs get let in and out all day long. I have huge, big exercise yards for them. I try to get the dogs to socialize with other dogs. We try to do basic training for every dog that comes in. Just kind of manners 101. I make them sit politely at the gates and do leash work with them. Something else that makes us unique compared to other kennels is that I’m a registered nurse also, so I’m pretty acutely aware of illness and wounds and know how to handle them. I take care of diabetic dogs. I have a good feel for if a dog is just moping or if a dog sick. I think I’ve been here so long I know all the veterinarians and they work really well with me if I’m worried about a dog. We do cats and bunnies too, but I don’t do snakes, and I don’t do ferrets anymore.