After 25 years of caring for pets, the owner of Kerfree Kennels, Barbara Lavere has a lot to meow about. She has gained a great background in animal health and behavior.
In fact, Lavere has been breeding and showing Chinese Char-Pei for over 35 years and earned her AKC judges license for that breed.
In May of 1994 she was at the Shar-Pei National Specialty and roomed with another exhibitor, who owned a kennel.
“She said if you have a love of dogs and enjoy being outdoors and hard work a boarding kennel is very rewarding," said Lavere. "When I returned home I told my husband about the conversation, and he said, 'Go for it.'”
Her husband, Steve, had his own business and had built the family a lovely home in Lake Lackawanna.
“My two daughters were out of the house and my son just graduated high school,” she said. “I started my search with no background knowledge of a boarding kennel and how its run. I saw a few kennels but some needed work or were in an undesirable location. I settled on a well-kept 40-run kennel on six acres with a home on the property.”
Lavere took her husband's advice and went for it, moving the family to Sparta in December of that year. She opened Kerfree Kennels at 530 Houses Corner Road where the business has remained for the past 25 years. The family home is right on the property.
The kennel features cat and dog boarding, dog day care and grooming.
Lavere hails from Hanover and when she grew up there were still many working farms in the area. Her father was a railroader but loved farming.
“We had 15 acres,bailing hay raising sheep, steer, pigs, chicken,” she said. "Horses were my real love at that age, and I started riding at five. There was a very active 4-H club in Morris County. It was a wonderful source of education on caring for stock, animal husbandry, nutrition. The county extension service had great programs available thru Rutgers. Being very competitive I went to all the seminars and programs I could.”
When she opened Kerfree, there were a few kennels in the area.
“I thought 40 runs was big, but I'm so glad we stayed small and personal,” Lavere said. “I've met some wonderful people over the 25 years and been blessed with generations of their family dogs. We've shed tears over a family's beloved dog passing away from old age that we had taken care of from a pup. When the time was right, they trusted us with their new crazy happy pup.”
Lavere feels it's a definite advantage to live on the property with her own dogs, with the boarders. Her daughter started the business with her, and she also gives accolades to her wonderful staff of adults who take their responsibilities very seriously.
“We have two that are trained in animal health,” she said. “We are selective when we take a new client to make sure we can give them the care they need and the owners will feel confident their family members is safe and having a good time playing in out outside paddocks. Each boarder goes out for playtime twice a day with the kennel help.”
One of Kerfree's unique hallmarks is its homemade chicken soup for the dogs.
“I love cooking and treating the boarders to something special,” Lavere said. “I love watching their faces light up for a piece of chick or savory broth on their meals, if its OK with their owners.”
Kerfree Kennels is located on six rolling acres and prides itself on a restful environment, safe grassy paddocks and spacious indoor/outdoor. There are comfortable beds and nutritious meals and snacks are served and kitties have a separate room with a view
“My husband and I both agree its been a wonderful 25 years and the best move for us. Yes there have been some hard times, but we have been so blessed to live in this beautiful town and meet so many wonderful people.”