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Dogs enjoy open space adventures at canine daycare

Dogs enjoy an unleashed hike in the hills above Grant Creek in Missoula. Alpine Canine Pet Daycare and Boarding offers dogs a chance to explore nature and to practice their dog instincts of curiosity and affection.{ } Here, everybody gets to be a goofball.
Dogs enjoy an unleashed hike in the hills above Grant Creek in Missoula. Alpine Canine Pet Daycare and Boarding offers dogs a chance to explore nature and to practice their dog instincts of curiosity and affection. Here, everybody gets to be a goofball.
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"The dog is full of love," wrote the American poet Ogden Nash. "I've also found that a wet dog is the lovingest."

Most of the dogs at Alpine Canine Pet Boarding and Daycare get wet every day. They also take long hikes in the hills.

For many dogs, the day begins with an early morning ride on Alpine's canine school bus.

Isaac Lange is the bus driver. He's up early to pick up his charges.

NBC Montana went along for part of Isaac's route.

First up, we picked up Angus Roth at his house.

Boy, was Angus ready for the day. He hopped in the bus and away we went.

Next up, Isaac drove to Zoe and Gracie's house.

They got in the bus and greeted Angus.

Isaac collected several more dogs before dropping them off at Alpine Canine.

He released the dogs into a yard already filled with dozens of other pets.

The dogs were ready to begin their day.

"It's like a school," said Isaac. "You bring your kid and drop them off, then through their own means they will find their friends."

Isaac's mom and dad, Apryl and Shannon Lange, own and operate the daycare and boarding facility.

"I love dogs. I've grown up with them," said Apryl. "We've had dogs my whole life."

It's the same for Shannon.

"People volunteer at places like this," said Shannon. "They get to interact and play with pets. And we do that for a job."

About 10 o'clock, 40 dogs waited impatiently behind a fence to begin their favorite part of the day.

Isaac opened the gate, and all the dogs bounded forward, barking and running to start their hike into the hills above the kennel.

That's thousands of pounds of energy released into the 72-acres of fenced open space.

"The dogs are allowed to run on at the base of Grant Creek," said Shannon. "Just open space for those dogs to run and play."

Jason McDonald drops Wrangel off most every day to play.

"He's a very social dog and we live kind of by ourselves," said Jason. "I want him to come out here and socialize with other dogs and people."

"They (pet parents) want an open space for their energetic canine friends to burn off some of that energy," said Shannon. "They run around and play and become exhausted at the end of the day."

The first stop on the hike is the creek that runs through the place.

Here, dogs dive in and splash around. Everybody seems to get as wet as they possibly can. The dogs shake off the excess water and begin their trek up the hill.

Isaac and kennel assistant Emma Musick lead the pack on the trek.

Winding high above Grant Creek and the city, it's a scenic trip.

Some of the dogs "like to explore beyond their sights," said Isaac, "and we give them that trust. They will be slightly beyond the ridge out of sight, but every single time they come back when we're ready to leave."

"They accept each other for being dogs," said Apryl. "That's all they want to do. They show each other kindness and affection."

When we stop on the hilltop, the dogs run around, constantly seeking and giving affection to their human friends.

Emma is a University of Montana student studying science and biology. She is interested in pursuing a career in animal behavior.

For Emma, the outdoor activity acts as a kind of dog laboratory.

"I'm seeing how dogs interact with each other in an off-leash environment," she said. "It's not contained. It's very natural."

The hike offers dogs and humans an education in nature.

"The word is fulfilling," said Shannon. "It fills you up daily. It fills your heart with this love of animals."

"It's the unconditional love that you get from a dog," said Apryl. "I think that's why humans like dogs. They don't discriminate."

Back at the Hound Lounge, it's time for lunch and an afternoon nap. All that exercise can wear a dog out.

Apryl and Shannon said they found their calling taking care of Missoula's pet parent's dogs.

They are Missoula kids themselves. Both graduated from Sentinel High School. They married young and had a family.

"We came together because we loved each other," said Shannon. "We just ended up doing this."

Apryl also has a bakery business.

Shannon changed careers as a tile setter to running Alpine full-time.

"I think that getting into this career was motivated by the atmosphere," he said. "It's working with living creatures. These pets are our family."

"Other than having kids," he said, "there's anything more enriching than having pets in your life."

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