Monday, August 10, 2009

Proper Noun of the Week #7: Becca Riker

Welcome to the seventh edition of the CB Proper Noun of the Week column. Seven is universally considered a lucky number, which is fitting in this case, as I feel extraordinarily fortunate to have discovered the business run by the person highlighted this week. When I first moved to Cleveland - an event that, in five days, will have occured two full years ago - I initially lived on the near west side, on West 25th, in Ohio City. I was commuting to work via the Red Line every day and facing an anxious puppy whose unhappiness at being left alone was only matched by the unhappiness of my neighbors and landlord at having to listen to her mournfully howl and cry all day long.

In my hunt for solutions, I discovered a doggie day-care only a few blocks away in neighboring Tremont. I signed Smelly Ellie up for an evaluation appointment - something this institution required, in order to make sure a potential pet customer had the temperament that would keep it and other pet customers safe - and it was then that I met Becca Riker.

Becca operates The Mutt Hutt, the most important discovery I've ever made in Cleveland, rivaled only by the fried chicken at Hot Sauce Williams. The Mutt Hutt is a full-service, cage-free dog day-care and overnight boarder. The cage-free aspect has been purposefully italicized, as that's what is truly important about it. In essence, The Mutt Hutt is operated out of a building in Tremont that is set up somewhat as a house where full-time employees supervise the dogs. Instead of being cooped up in cages, they lounge around on sofas and beds and play in huge and safe indoor and outdoor play areas with other dogs of the same size and energy. (My written description hardly does justice, so check out these photos here. You'll be astounded at how good your pups can have it during the day!)

Becca is more than the owner of a cool business, however; she's also a full-time active citizen. You'll see her out and about at a number of community activities in her area, but she's particularly vital and visible in issues and events that concern animal health and wellness. If my knowledge that Smelly Ellie is going to be in doggie utopia while she stays there during some long work days and on weekends when I go out of town makes the sale for me, knowing the quality of person the owner is puts The Mutt Hutt way over the top in the contest of businesses in Cleveland that I love. The Mutt Hutt has become a cornerstone institution in this area, providing a top-notch micro-level rescue operation as well as hosting and helping to organize several fundraisers and activities to benefit charitable groups and non-profits that improve the lives of innumerable animals. This week alone, Riker is involved in a weekend-long series of events benefiting local animal shelters and rescues that also promise to be a helluva time (click on the images below).

In between planning all these events, managing her business, engaging the community, and just plain being awesome, Becca took the time to answer my slate of questions below. Read on ...

1) How long have you been in Cleveland? And if you didn't grow up in Cleveland, where'd you relocate here from?

I moved to Cleveland in 1992 from Pittsburgh, PA (and sports fans please take note I own brown dogs and started a nonpofit cage-free dog pound for rescue dogs).

2) What is your favorite Cleveland memory?

It is a very recent memory and one that I will always cherish. Being a part of the 20th anniversary Parade the Circle this summer was the best Cleveland experience I've had. A good friend asked me to be a part of his 7-piece float that told a story of a dream as we pushed the pieces around the circle. Being there dressed as a mechanic surrounded by other artists and watching the faces of all sorts of people cheering us was a great feeling. I really felt like I was a part of something special.

3) How does (if at all) Cleveland influence your work and/or art?

It's the people of Cleveland that influence my work. I feel very fortunate to be surrounded by a creative staff of people ranging from animal activists to rock stars. My friends are all very outspoken and active in their communities.

4) What would be your ideal Cleveland day? Or, to put it another way, if it was your birthday and your nearest and dearest were all willing to do what you wanted, what would your day be like?

My birthday is in the dead of winter so I would pick a birthday in the fall on a sunshine, blue sky and mildly windy day and host a music festival at Clark Field in Tremont. It would be a weekend affair with camping, camp fires and friends. And, of course, my favorite band headlining...The Disco Biscuits.

5) Say you had a friend coming in for 24 hours and had never been to Cleveland before. What would you make sure they saw and did?

I'd give them a guided car tour at sunset. I'd start at Edgewater Park to see the sun set and head over the shoreway bridge to see the lit up skyline and bridges and lake and then continue down through the the flats. I love to drive my guests to the isolated areas and give them a new perspective on Cleveland and what it visually has to offer.

6) What is something from another city you wish you could import to Cleveland?

Hills. Being from Pittsburgh that is what I miss the most. I love the mountains, twisty roads and steel town workers cottages that are built on the mountains. There's nothing like that in Cleveland.

7) If you had the undivided attention of the mayor, city council, and county commissioners, what would be the one thing you'd ask for or tell them?

I'd ask them to invest in the City of Cleveland Kennel. The conditions the animals, employees and many volunteers live and work in are unacceptable. I've been to many shelters in the tri-state area and I am blown away at how awful it is at our local shelter. I would ask the mayer, city council and commissioners to visit the kennel and try spending a night down there.

To meet Becca and the rest of her staff, or, better yet, discover the very best doggie daycare and overnight lodging business I've ever had the pleasure to find, check out The Mutt Hutt's operations online or give her a call to set up an appointment for a tour or a pet enrollment evaluation. If you prefer your socializing with a little social action, there are a number of events Riker and The Mutt Hutt are involved with over the coming weeks, in addition to the brief run-down I mentioned at the beginning of this post. Check out my rundown published last week here or The Mutt Hutt's events page here. The Mutt Hutt is located at 2603 Scranton Road in Tremont. You can reach it by phone at 216.621.6888 or by email at "info AT".


Flores Hayes said...

a great find for panda fanatic!
my roomate won't put it down!!!

Anonymous said...

I am very proud to have Becca as one of my little sisters; growing up in Pittsburgh, she was always active with animals and always had their best interests at heart. I remember when Lucy the Cat arrived; Becca rescued her and brought her home, keeping Lucy hidden in our house until she convinced our mother that we needed a cat. This did not take long, and Lucy became part of our family (along with countless other dogs, of course!). I am just glad she's my sister and hope that Clevelanders take advantage of the excellent care The Mutt Hutt and Becca Riker provides!