Goleta residents drive their doggy daycare business
A white bus brimming with wagging tails zips around Santa Barbara daily.
The bus, which once carried students, now has furry passengers on their way to dog-friendly trails and beaches.
Jonathan and Tracie Eymann, longtime Goleta residents, run Santa Barbara County’s most portable doggy daycare, called the Bark Bus.
Each day, they pick up around 20 pups each morning, take them on exciting walks and drop them off just before dinnertime.
Their route to becoming small business owners wasn’t smooth. Years ago, Mrs. Eymann survived a rare form of uterine cancer that restricted her from pursuing her previous career path.
The couple courageously launched a pet services business, offering grooming, boarding, training and walks seven days a week.
Mrs. Eymann thought of the idea of the Bark Bus in 2014 as a way to narrow their business and hopefully get weekends to relax as a family.
“I just thought it would be a funny idea if we just got a bus and made that into a daycare,” Mrs. Eymann said. “Then we wouldn’t have to worry about a physical building and having the overhead.
“And so we just thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun to just take the dogs out in a big group and have them make nature be their daycare?’ ”
They see health and behavioral benefits from these engaging walks.
“It’s kind of like the credo of our service is really that what keeps the dog healthy and happy is stimulation,” Mr. Eymann said.
Bark Bus riders go home tired and fulfilled, meaning they’re less likely to knock over a trash can or chew up some shoes.
“You want their brain to be active with their body,” Mr. Eymann said. “And so taking them to the beach where they can sniff seaweed one day and taking them up in the mountains where they can sniff around the trail and whatnot, we feel like those things are what really make a dog go home really happy and satisfied.”
The Eymanns park the bus with a full heart as well.
“I think when you approach it with the attitude of really caring about the people and households and the environment and the dogs in a sort of equilateral fashion that you wind up very satisfied with the work that you’re doing, and so then you want to do it more,” Mr. Eymann said.
Mrs. Eymann studied exotic animal training and management at Moorpark College, learning everything from the care of to the psychology of animals.
Mr. Eymann grew up watching his parents raise puppies, and he had experience training his own dogs when he met Mrs. Eymann.
She taught him everything she knew so they could be solid business partners. Now they have more than 30,000 hours of experience caring for animals.
Prior to her cancer diagnosis, Mrs. Eymann worked at the Wildlife Care Network and Advanced Veterinary Specialists. If a dog gets injured on a Bark Bus hike, she is ready with first aid.
Although the dogs may feel wild and free, the Eymanns keep safety at the forefront of their days.
While riding the bus, the dogs are buckled in and snuggled against their buddies. They greet one another as each dog loads onto the bus.
On walks, the Eymanns watch their surroundings and only let obedient dogs off-leash in designated areas, and they choose areas where they wouldn’t bother others.
“A lot of people are pretty impressed and delighted to see this big group of dogs who all get along together and them all socializing and acting as a friendly pack,” Mr. Eymann said.
As dogs get more rides under their collar, they become less anxious and feel safe with their newfound friends.
More pups have joined the pack since the onset of the pandemic, almost doubling the number of daily riders.
“I think that people with the COVID situation, they got their quarantine puppies. And now everybody’s getting kind of stir crazy, and people just saw this as an opportunity for their dogs to just get out their wiggles,” Mrs. Eymann said.
They have a second bus and hope to expand to more areas soon.
“We’re just really looking forward to just taking on new dog faces and taking them out and making them all happy,” she said.
As their pack has grown, so has the Eymann family. They have four children who have grown up with the dog-walking business.
“It’s a lot of fun having four kids and 20 dogs a day to take care of,” Mr. Eymann said. “I think we just sort of thrive off of the activity.”
Mr. and Mrs. Eymann are always moving, either assisting their kids or trotting alongside the dogs.
In the future, they hope to help influence local policies and get more dog owners outside with their pets. There might even be fun merchandise down the line.
To climb aboard, visit ridethebarkbus.com.