Nelly Rivera, Zoomies owner, with her happy clients, including Banshee on her shoulder. CONTRIBUTED

For pet owners and caretakers, it’s more than just a “fun job playing with dogs.” 

It’s a job that doesn’t have an end time as you are always thinking or worrying about them. Pet owners can understand the importance of making sure they are in good care, and so so does Nelly Rivera, owner of the new pet destination Zoomies in Key Largo. 

“I am originally from Daytona Beach and went to school a little bit for marine biology and then started as an intern at Theater of the Sea (TOTS). I got most of my knowledge and experience through that experience — they have a really good program,”Rivera said.

Many people have a side job in that field, especially in the Keys where the cost of living is high. Rivera started in 2017 on doing dog walks, and it grew from there.

“It was time to expand and I found the space working with a Realtor. Initially, I wasn’t having much luck. However, at the last minute, I found this place. We opened in October,” she said. 

The property at MM 102 in Key Largo was meant for Zoomies, with a large fenced-in yard, let alone the indoor downstairs space that includes a training room. The upstairs, which is for boarding, has an open view in the center of the downstairs play area.

“My contractor, Mark Kruger, has been a great help. And I could not have done this without the help of my sister, Sheyla Rivera,” Rivera said. “The boarding suites are upstairs, and there will be about 25 kennels. There will be different-sized kennels, and I am also building a cat corner downstairs.” 

Zoomies also offers boarding training or day care training. “Maui (one of the dogs) just did a board and train and is back for a day to play,” Rivera said. 

The day play cost is $35 per day with packages available; the hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Training is priced separately: Rivera assesses the dog and what makes sense, as “all dogs are different.” The training teaches commands such as “sit,” “stay,” “lay down” and “go to place,” as well as other basic obedience, socializing skills and confidence building. 

“Most people bring their dogs during the week while they are at work. To get their energy out — the bigger dogs get enrichment. All the dogs here today are regulars,” Rivera said.

Do the dogs tend to get along? Rivera said, “yes.”

“I’ve only had a challenge once, and it was because the dog played too hard and needed more training, which at the time, I couldn’t do,” Rivera said. “I do an evaluation process. If the dogs don’t get along or need a time out, I can separate them. Fifteen years at TOTS mostly prepared me to be able to read behavior. I feel that’s the reason I don’t have any issues with the dogs because I can read them and then do prevention measures before anything happens.

“I don’t typically take them on a walk because of the risk of them slipping out of their collar,” she continued. “But if a dog needs to take a walk to poop, I review the risk with the owner.”

Rivera is also knowledgeable and knows how to give insulin if your dog is diabetic. Zoomies also has a friend in Banshee, the cute black kitten.

“I found her on the other side of the fence as I heard her crying for two days. She was about 3 to 4 weeks old. So, I asked the neighboring property owner if I could come over, and there she was,” Rivera said. “Banshee loves dogs. Riley, for example (one of the big dogs), loves playing with her. They are not rough; they are all very gentle with her. I watch to see how they look at her through the fence first.”

Rivera said she can see Banshee and fellow dogs bonding and forming friendships. 

“When people board their dogs, I will send home report cards and put who their best friend was during their stay,”she said. 

The boarding cost is $50 per night for one dog, and then if there is another dog in the same family, it’s an additional $30 per dog per night. Boarding for cats is also available at $30 a day. 

Zoomies can take about 30 dogs at a time. Rivera also can take cats and is open to discussion about some other types of pets that are caged.
More information is on Instagram and Facebook @zoogradepetcare, or 305-735-4262.

Melinda Van Fleet is an Intuitive Energy Business & Leadership Mentor and the owner of Good Karma Sportfishing with her husband, Ryan Van Fleet. She is a speaker, bestselling author of "Confidence Mastery for Couples" and "Life & Love Lessons," and the host of the weekly podcast "The Success Codes Podcast." You can connect with her more at