Ski’s Dog House in Big Rapids Offers Dogs a Quality Getaway

BIG RAPIDS – Caring for a dog yourself can be a lot of work, as can finding a good place for your furry friend while you’re away, but a Big Rapids company is available to provide just that for your dog.

Ski’s Dog House, formerly known as Big Rapids Pet Motel, recently had a name change and a few new additions to its staff. Located at 931 Rose Avenue in Big Rapids, the company primarily offers boarding services, but also offers dog daycare options.

Crystal Szymanski, Ski’s senior sitter, said she discovered the love of pets early on and chased it away.

“I’ve worked for Dr. Davids since I was in high school,” Szymanski said, referring to veterinarian and former owner Richard Davids. “I did an internship with him my senior year, came all the way from Newaygo to come here to Big Rapids. I only had a semester of college under my belt, and he offered me a job here at the pet hospital. He provided boarding, grooming and veterinary care.

“I started out as a kennel attendant doing the boarding and the bottom of the totem,” she added. “I loved it, looking after the dogs and some cats we had up front. I loved walking them, feeding them and playing with them. I’ve always wanted to work with animals, so it worked out great that I got the job offer and I never really wanted to go anywhere else.

Szymanski is taking over boarding operations and the construction lease from Davids after announcing his retirement and will continue operations.

In a building that housed boarding and grooming operations for 20 years, the business will see new management. Szymanski said she was excited to continue the tradition of working with animals.

“There are day boarders who come in and just need dog daycare,” Szymanski said. “They go to work all day and need someone to let their dog out or feed them or give them certain medications at a time. I can do it. Otherwise, it is for overnight stays. They walk around near the fairgrounds as long as the weather is nice. I have a bathing facility where I can make bows for borders. I can also give all the necessary medications throughout the day if they need it.

At Ski’s Dog House, Szymanski works individually with each dog to give them the care they need, and there is no group interaction with every dog. Working with the animals individually helps prevent any problems between the dogs and allows them to become familiar with Szymanski.


She said her experience with pets started with hers as a young girl.

“I always wanted to be a veterinarian,” Szymanski said. “That’s what I did the end-of-studies internship in high school, then I was going to do a college of veterinary medicine. I ended up getting the job here, so it’s always been a lifelong dream for me, and my parents helped me.

“I rescued a few dogs in high school and kept them until old age,” she added. “I have always loved animals, and having the opportunity to work with them and care for them every day was something I always wanted to pursue. I always say that I love animals more than people.

Szymanski now has three Standard Poodles, but she loves working with any breed of dog that comes through the doors of Ski’s Dog House.

“My son is allergic to dogs, it turned out that the Standard Poodle was the breed we chose so he could be everywhere with them and not have a problem,” Szymanski said. “I also like Labradors and Golden Retrievers. Usually they learn that I’m not going to hurt them, they have nothing to be afraid of, which helps dogs feel comfortable.

“I also use a lot of bones and treats to try to gain their trust,” she added. “When you walk them outside they become more comfortable. I don’t do anything special with them, I just try to be myself and most animals are quite comfortable. They can read the people and getting to know people’s personalities, so it’s going pretty well.

Going forward, Szymanski aims to potentially include full grooming services in the future as well as adding room for cats. Another goal is to have a fenced area where dogs can run and play freely on the property.

Szymanski said she had most of what she needed, but was always looking for ways to improve or provide more for her clients and their pets.

“I just hope the community knows this will be a fun, happy, and safe place for your pet to go while you’re away,” Szymanski said. “I can’t really grow in the facility I’m in, but things are going well so far and I’m always happy to meet and work with new pets.”

For more information about Ski’s Dog House, visit the company’s Facebook page at