It’s a Dog’s Life

Ballantyne pooches enjoy best of everything, rate as family members

By Nan Bauroth | Photos by Ray Sepesy

Make no bones about it: Ballantyne canines rule. Take Dash, a 3-year-old border collie who has his own Instagram page, @Bordercolliedash. Approximately 5,000 fans follow his awesome diving acrobatics and lightning-fast agility runs. Then there’s Grady (above), an aristocratic borzoi whose gorgeous silken tresses make him a local paparazzi magnet.

Despite his regal beauty and docile temperament, Grady the borzoi can reach speeds of up to 40 miles per hour.
Dash, the dock diving star, trains with agility equipment in his owner Katie Cone's backyard.
Marvel comic apparel is popular now, says Kristen Snyder, general manager of Petco in The Shops at Piper Glen.
Social Pet Hotel and Daycare served Marble Slab's Doggie Daiquiris during a recent yappy hour.

Everywhere in Ballantyne dogs are living the good life — walking in neighborhoods, loping beside runners, riding in a doggie bike basket, being pushed in a puppy stroller or just cruising around. You’ll often see their noses sticking out the car window in hope of a free tidbit from drive-through establishments.

“My Australian shepherd, Molly, loves Chick-fil-A because she knows they always have treats,” says Blakeney resident Pamela Hardison. Furry beggars also love the dog biscuit that BB&T gives them with their owner’s deposit.

The most doggone-friendly place of all in the Ballantyne area, though, is Blakeney Shopping Center. In addition to allowing dogs to play on leash in the village green, many retailers keep water bowls outside their front doors, and on any given evening, dogs can be seen kicking back with their owners on the patios outside restaurants and bars. It’s almost as if owners don’t consider their dog so much an animal but human.

Elizabeth, Isaac and Rebecca Losh enjoy coffee from Fior Ballantyne with their Maltipoo, Asher.
"We fill a baby pool out back with bags of crushed ice and they jump in and chill for hours," says Ballantyne-area dog owner Kelly Hubatka of her purebred Siberian huskies, Rocket and Dubs. Photo courtesy of Kelly Hubatka.
A sophisticated coloring job at Modern Pet Salon turned Milo the goldendoodle into a giraffe. Photo courtesy of Modern Pet Salon.

“Dogs here are no longer living in the backyard; they’re sleeping in our beds,” confirms Dr. Ken Schoolmeester, who opened Mixed Pet Veterinary Hospital in StoneCrest in 1999. “Dogs in Ballantyne are truly family.”

Rod Stephen, who co-owns Modern Pet Salon in Ballantyne Village with his wife, Danyelle, goes one step further. “Dogs today are children,” he asserts. “Younger professionals especially are having children later, so their dog becomes a practice child. They give the dog its own bedroom, take it on vacation, grill a steak for it when they cook out.”

This view of dogs as children has taken such deep hold in Ballantyne that owners of dog-related facilities no longer use the term “dog owner,” but “dog parent.” And like all loving parents, these moms and dads lavish an amazing amount of time and money on their canine children.

Facials and Fur Coloring

Ballantyne dogs can now indulge in spa treatments. At Modern Pet Salon, every dog gets a blueberry facial with its bath.

“If the dog’s face is dirty, it can cause allergies,” Rod Stephen says. “The facial gets their eye ducts clean and face smelling good. There’s also a health component for brachycephalic breeds with shortened noses, like bulldogs, whose facial folds cause moisture and hot spots that can lead to trouble breathing.”

The hottest trend at the salon, though, is sophisticated coloring jobs that turn a dog into a real showstopper. For example, this fall Amber Helms had her standard poodle, Gus, tricked out to look like a snow cone, and her goldendoodle, Milo, sired by Gus, made out to look like a giraffe.

Doggie Day Care

Doggie day care here has also evolved. At Social Pet Hotel and Daycare in Pineville, CEO Bill Hillis notes his organization provides enrichment programs with a high touch. “The first day we give a free assessment to get to know the dog and its parents and then recommend a play plan,” he says.

Depending on the dog, Social Pet can do one-on-one activities, including individual walks and cuddles, or small and large groups. Handlers also engage dogs mentally with activities like scavenger hunts and parties. September’s yappy hour fun involved a frozen treat from Marble Slab Creamery at StoneCrest.

Marble Slab also sells these goodies year-round at their store. “We call them Doggie Daiquiris,” says General Manager Megan Glunt, explaining the dog-safe delights are made with organic yogurt, organic honey, bananas and peanut butter.

Doodle Mania

The current breed craze in Ballantyne is all about doodles. “People want anything doodle,” says Dr. Susan Bonilla, a holistic veterinarian who owns Passionate Paws Animal Hospital in Waxhaw, explaining that a doodle is half poodle and half you name it. The rage started with Labradoodles but has morphed into just about any mixture imaginable, based on a belief that doodles don’t shed.

“The most bizarre doodle cross we’ve seen is a Saint Bernard with a miniature poodle,” reports Mixed Pet’s Schoolmeester. “It’s just so crazy. People are now starting to cross with miniature poodles, though, which eliminates a lot of the exuberant energy larger doodles tend to have.”

Asher, a 3-year-old Maltipoo owned by Isaac Losh and his family, exemplifies the latest trend in doodle mania. Asher is half Maltese, a toy breed known for its beautiful floor-length fur, and half miniature poodle, a breed the American Kennel Club (AKC) calls “wickedly smart.”

“Asher is highly social,” Losh says. “Most of the friends we have made since we moved to Ballantyne we met in the neighborhood while walking him.”

Losh also loves grabbing a coffee or pastry and sitting outside enjoying the environment with Asher, so he is excited about Northwood’s vision for a high-density town center with designated green spaces and park benches.

Online Pet Fame

At Ballantyne Magazine, we publish a web-only feature highlighting local adorable dogs and other pets. Do you live in the Ballantyne area and have a pet you’d like us to consider? Send an email to with the subject line “Member of the Family” along with your contact information and a photo of your pet.

Rare Breeds

The most unusual dog in Schoolmeester’s practice right now is Grady, a 3-year-old borzoi owned by Andrea and David Brown. Originally known as the Russian wolfhound, the borzoi was bred by Russian nobility to hunt during the winter, and despite its regal beauty and docile temperament, it can reach speeds of 40 miles an hour in hot pursuit.

Grady is the sixth borzoi the Browns have owned. “Grady is very sweet but a little timid with people,” Andrea says, noting borzois are couch potatoes at heart and need exercise. With his graceful 3-foot long legs, Grady must be in a fenced yard because he can jump so high, but it’s his feathery coat and elegant prance that make him a showstopper in Ballantyne.

“He loves the greenway, and we also walk him in the neighborhood or behind StoneCrest. We always get stopped by people asking to pet him and take his photo,” Andrea says. “Evie, our previous borzoi, was the cover girl for a Las Vegas marketing magazine.”

Dock Diving Star

The Ballantyne area also now boasts its own canine Olympic athlete with 13 titles to his name. Owned and trained by 15-year-old Katie Cones, Dash ranks third in the nation among border collies for “air retrieve,” a daring maneuver where a dog must leap far and high enough over water to knock a bumper off its magnets.

He also ranks 13th among 179 border collies nationally for dock diving distance. “His personal best is 26 feet,” Katie says proudly. In addition, Dash competes in the “excellent” class in agility.

The daughter of Theresa and John Cones, Katie is so committed to her sport dog Dash that she is now enrolled in an online school to have more flexibility to compete. This month she and Dash will travel to Orlando, Florida, for the NADD Dock Diving Finals as well as AKC Junior Agility Competition. Katie hopes to qualify for the AKC European Open Junior Team USA competing in Finland next year.

Katie trains Dash with agility equipment in her backyard and at the regulation-size pool at A Better Dog Kennel in Monroe. She has also taken Dash to Pennsylvania the last two summers for Boundless Junior Agility Camp.

“Dash is an amazing dog with an intense work ethic,” she says lovingly, explaining that she trains him three times a day, always followed by a cooldown in the pool. Dash watches Katie like a hawk during these sessions, responding to her next cue in a split second. At the end of every workout, he joyfully leaps into her arms — showing why dogs have always been, and always will be, their owner’s best friend.