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Posted on Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 5:58 a.m.

Pillows, TVs and massages for dogs: New business launches on West Liberty

By Janet Miller


Jocelyn Verlee, pictured with her dog Kitzbuhel, launched BreedAbove on West Liberty.

Janet Miller | For

BreedAbove, a new business in West Liberty in Ann Arbor, offers the luxury touches that have become the calling card of high-end salons and hotels, from a reception area with contemporary white sofas, lots of natural light and clean lines to massage services and plumped pillows on the beds.

But don’t plan on spending a long weekend or a relaxing day at the spa with your friends. Unless, of course, you have fur, four legs and you’re known to slobber when you’re happy.

BreedAbove has taken pet pampering to the next level, offering a roster of services for dogs including grooming, day care and play groups, overnight lodging, training and taxi service.


Saint Bernard dog Kitzbuhel hangs out at one of the overnight suites at BreedAbove.

Janet Miller | For


Blossom, a Papillon, gets the royal treatment from groomer Lori Gotts. The grooming tables offer light from underneath.

Janet Miller | For

And while there’s plenty of swank, it’s also about safety, said Jocelyn VerLee, president and one of the owners of BreedAbove. The safety features include break-away collars worn by each dog, flexible modular fencing in the DayStay atrium room and temperament testing dogs before they are admitted (there’s a three-page application) to the program. The business has tested more than 100 dogs since it opened.

Planning for BreedAbove Inc. took more than three years, VerLee said. The business secured financing from a group of Ann Arbor investors, who purchased and renovated the 8,100-square-foot former Fresh Seasons Market at 2281 W. Liberty on the west side of Ann Arbor. Renovations took eight months, and the business has six employees.

BreedAbove opened two months ago, and demand has already exceeded projections, VerLee said. Most of the customer traffic has come from word of mouth.

“The demand has been so big I haven’t had time to develop our marketing tools. We’re unique because we offer a consolidation of services under one roof,” VerLee said.

BreedAbove offers four types of services: a pet salon with grooming, dental care and massage; a DayStay program that stresses training; NightStay hotel suites with private rooms and flat screen TVs and one-on-one training.

But don’t call it doggy day care, VerLee said. BreedAbove does more than babysit dogs. The dogs are broken into small playgroups and assigned a coach, who works with the dogs on training and manners.

“We work along with the pet parent to reinforce their training,” VerLee said. It’s a calm environment with little barking and no tell-tale doggie smell because an energy ventilating system cleans the air.

The facility and the care come at a premium. BreedAbove is more expensive than most competitors, VerLee said. Cost for a full day is $35 or $250 for an eight-day package.

And don’t call it kennel, either. Each of the 18 overnight suites has a bed, inner spring mattress and headboard along with a comforter, waterproof sheets and colorful pillows. And eight flat-screen TVs show movies such as “101 Dalmatians” or “The Fox and the Hound”.

“”We’re all about comfort,” VerLee said.

She expects to grow. That’s one reason the investors selected the former farm market location. There’s room for the dogs to run, but also space to grow. The business plans to add a coffee bar soon — for pet parents, not pets — and hope to someday also offer services for cats.

BreedAbove will hold a public open house Dec. 11.

Janet Miller is a freelance reporter for



Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 3:39 a.m.

I have brought my dog to Lori several times, she is excellent with him. The facility is beautiful and the employees that are working with the dogs enjoy what they are doing. There is a great atmosphere about the place. Will I take "Luke" back, you bet!


Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 12:11 a.m.

If they are so good can they teach a dog it is not polite to stick your nose in another dogs privates


Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 5:24 p.m.

I'm with Mort and A2Justsayin. How lucky we are to live in a country and city where there are choices. While I am currently single when it comes to my canine children (having had 16 beautiful years with their unconditional love before age took them away), I would make the choice to sacrifice my own comfort and luxuries to make sure my family (yes, to us dog people and cat people, they are our family) had what they needed. The fact that Ms. Verlee only charges $10 more than the going rate of other places is a bargain. I applaud her for being brave and contributing to our economy and making a locally owned business thrive in a time when other businesses are having a tough time. It goes to show people will pay for quality and service. And if they can afford it, why not. I hear all the negative comments and the disgust among those of you who can't get past the inequality of income right now in our society. I hate it, too. Trust me, I'm well below average in that department. But, there is nothing wrong with good old-fashioned capitalism versus communism. And as someone else pointed out, don't forget that VerLee and other upscale pet places do support our charitable organizations as do the people who can afford to patronize her business. Ms. VerLee, I wish you continued success. Thank you, for adding to the diversity and uniqueness of Ann Arbor businesses. And for the record to the rest of you who see a conflict, you can be a liberal and a Democrat and also be pro-business. They aren't mutually exclusive.


Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 4:25 p.m.

yes it is pampering lets get this out first. once a dog owner you do the best you can for them. if you go out of town and need to board your dog. it costs around $25 or close to it. they sleep on a mat were they could sleep on a bed or chair at home. so for the extra $10 or one less pizza you can make them feel at home. you spend money on yearly check ups, shots, dog food, and flea protection and treats etc.. they get sick you take them to the vet. you get sick you go to a dr. my point even knowing i will get bashed. they are family.


Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 4:43 p.m.

well stated! i applaud your perspective - and knowledge of facts.


Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 3:44 p.m.

My three cats are laughing their tails off about all of this nonsense!


Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 3:24 p.m.

I can't say what I really think! Where are all those that are usually so vocal in criticizing those with more than them or complaining about taxes? You know why they see no problem with THIS over the top dog kennel ? Because they all have 3 or 4 dogs! Even the name makes me think of snobs. I wonder if they will accept an un-groomed mongrel?


Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 2:56 p.m.

Lori Gotts who is a groomer featured in the picture above is absolutely excellent. I have been taking my 110 lbs St. Bernard mix to see her for the last couple of years and he not only looks fantastic but is always content and happy when I come and pick him up. Lori and Breed Above offer really great amenities and have established a real sense of trust in their customers. My dog is definitely part of my family and the services offered are well worth the expense even on a middle class income. I would highly recommend Lori and Breed Above to any dog owners. I have not had the opportunity to take advantage of all their other offerings but I hope to do so in the future. Anytime I stop by the dogs all appear happy and content and get the royal treatment. This is definitely a great business offering the area a great service for dog owners. More importantly its a locally owned business with great people working there!


Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 2:33 p.m.

I appreciate any new business that opens in town - be it for the rich, poor or anywhere in between. Business owners know there's a market for everyone and they choose a segment to cater to. Some people choose to eat at The Chop House (when McDonald's could also fill their stomachs), stay at 'fancy' hotels (when Super 8 could also provide them a bed), or treat themselves to a $250 day at the spa - often monthly - (when they could take a bath at home and have their spouse give them a back rub). This is the society we are privileged to live in. We have choices - and nobody is forcing a choice on you. To those that are so outraged, here's an idea...don't take your dog there. To those that can afford and see the value in this service, enjoy! It looks very nice. On a side note, it appears their prices are approx $10 more per day than all the others - wow, now I can see what all the outrage is about.... Now, I'm off to get my haircut...will it be Bo-Rics for $8 or that new salon that is charging $80 which includes a hot towel?? hmm...choices, choices...


Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 2:27 p.m.

One article on food programs for the poor being in tough straits... another on a luxury pet business. What income disparity? It must be a left wing myth.

Tony Livingston

Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 2:17 p.m.

Many of us who spend money on our pets also donate time and money to charitable organizations. We also rescue dogs and cats from the local humane society and volunteer there. There are many abandoned pets there that make excellent companions. Some of them are already very well trained. In addition, local veterinarians and grooming facilities donate services for pets who have been adopted from the pound. So, this is not the one way street that it might seem to be.


Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 2:44 p.m.

i agree. i have three rescue dogs and i love every minute with them. i groom and train and board them at arboroads farm on ann arbor saline road. while not as serene (there are horses and a pack of rhodesians) or pretty this is my luxury for my animals. i also donate my time and money to several charities which also include animal rescues. and fyi - my lab only like 4 to 5 star hotels. he really does get grumpy if you take him anywhere else.

Morris Thorpe

Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 2:33 p.m.

Tony, I'm certain many pet owners are charitable and giving people. But I think this is no different than someone who purchases a $20K watch. It is, in my opinion, ridiculous extravagance. It'd be hard to explain this business to someone who doesn't know where their next meal is coming from. To argue against myself, someone somewhere would think it's extravagant that I have dual monitors on my computer when they don't have electricity. I realize it is a matter of perspective. But I also think it's not right that a dog would enjoy far more luxury than some people.


Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 2:07 p.m.

I've brought my dog there several times for massage therapy by a certified therapist. Through her efforts my dog is beginning to recover from a serious muscle trauma. In addition, the facility is wonderful, the dogs I've seen there are very calm, and the staff is amazing. You get what you pay for: a more economical facility might not put as much emphasis on dog temperament and thus run the risk of dog fights. I can't wait for the coffee bar to open. I wonder if they'll serve "Hair of the Dog"?


Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 2:05 p.m.

"Quality" care for my puppy is #1 reason my puppy has gone to breedabove since Sept. The socialization, exercise & training is shaping my pup into a beautifully behaved dog & the services have made having a puppy & fulltime job very manageable especially being open 24/7 & their strong customer service. I highly recommend it & hope this great business flourishes in Ann Arbor.


Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 3:09 p.m.

I also "understand" where your consciousness is.

Morris Thorpe

Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 2:20 p.m.

I "understand" what you mean.

Morris Thorpe

Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 1:55 p.m.

Part of me says "if people can afford to take care of their pets this way, good for them. And good luck to the business." But another, more idealistic and naive, part of me is ticked off. Flat screen TV's? For dogs?? Never mind the rich v poor argument. I don't care about that. What about plain old human decency? If you came from another planet and saw people living in poverty and then...this....well, that doesn't say much about our society. What a bummer.

Morris Thorpe

Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 9:30 p.m.

>>You are just complaining because dogs have more than you. << Okay, first of all - not *all* dogs have more than me. I don't have a flat screen but I do have a tube TV (color.) And my couch does have pillows but not as nice as the ones pictured here. So yes. I am a little sore about that. Second of all, Kitzbuhel and Blossom (if I ever have kids those will be their names) are allowed to urinate in public whenever they want. But when *I* do that....oh my gosh! The looks I get. It's not fair.

Morris Thorpe

Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 7:33 p.m.

pb, You know who else didn't want dogs to have flat screen TVs??? Hitler!


Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 2:41 p.m.

so i guess you will be driving your bed, couch, tv and microwave out to the tent camp at elisabeth and wagner roads? or better having them all move in with you for a day to satisfy your need for justice? yeah. i know. not in this life.


Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 2:03 p.m.

How many kids have flat screen tv's? To many people their dogs are their children.


Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 1:53 p.m.

Occupy Ann Arbor should be OUTRAGED that the 1% can treat their DOGS better than they treat the 99%.


Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 2:38 p.m.

ya know what? occupy ann arbor should go occupy some job applications and quit whining. if there were a bunch of homeless people and drug users (the usual liberty plaza crowd) no one would have an iota of sympathy for them. the occupy movement around here is just about being 'cool' and whining. at least in detroit they unwittingly perform a public service by adding safety to the area they are occupying - with a permit.


Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 1:20 p.m.

"The demand has been so big I haven't had time to develop our marketing tools. We're unique because we offer a consolidation of services under one roof," VerLee said. Earlier in the article it said that the business has been in development for 3 years. I am a little confused at what is meant by "marketing tools" but after three years of development for a business like this one would think everything had been planned and discussed ad nauseum. I hope they make it. I am a business owner myself, but it looks like they have a lot of people to satisfy financially, and a lot of liability. I hope there is money left over at some point for Ms. VerLee.


Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 1:10 p.m.

....and the rich get richer and the poor get poorer....and this is what we see. Shameful.


Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 9:16 p.m.

P.S. My dogs will never see the inside of that place.


Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 9:13 p.m.

How do you know that those who pay for dog massages don't contribute to charity?


Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 11:15 p.m.

justcurious : come on!!! compare homeless with taking care of a dog. i guess we should just let them run around the city. oops sorry they cannot against the law. they do not beg for money, they do not take your money and not pay taxes on what they collect. yes we consider them family. i sure want to take care of my family.


Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 3:48 p.m.

@justcurious Maybe those homeless that you speak of, can fill out a job application and become productive members of society.


Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 3:07 p.m.

I hold with my original statement. People spending this kind of money on their pets is shameful in the face of the homeless camp sitting on Ann Arbor's doorstep.


Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 2:36 p.m.

it's jobs jobs jobs. and we need 'em. right here in ann arbor. not my business what anyone else spends their money on - or yours.


Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 2:01 p.m.

What?? You're against job creation? Innovation? Capitalism and marketing and selling a service or product certain people may want? Additional tax revenue and employment and you find it shameful.


Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 1:02 p.m.

Great to have a new business opening in town. Fine if someone wants to spend that kind of money pampering their pet. Depressing that there is high demand for these services when food banks are running so low.

Wolf's Bane

Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 12:20 p.m.

Looks fancy and expensive. I am guessing that's the point.

Some Guy in 734

Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 5:24 p.m.

All to suit the supposed aesthetics of animals that are perfectly happy giving themselves naughtybaths.


Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 12:16 p.m.

Must be for the 99%'s the 1%'s don't live in Ann Arbor.