This Doggie Daycare Cared for Essential Workers’ Dogs During the Pandemic. Now the Community Is Giving Back.

An act of kindness by a local business owner is being repaid tenfold by the community he serves.

When the country shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020, one doggie daycare in New York City stayed open. In the early days of the pandemic, while most of us were sheltering in place, Matt Signorile, the owner of Chasing Tails, cared for essential workers’ dogs every day while they worked at hospitals and grocery stores. Now, as his business struggles to pay the bills, Signorile’s neighbors are raising money to get him and his family back on their feet. Check out more uplifting stories of neighbors helping each other during coronavirus.

A passion for pups

Growing up, Signorile used to come home with at least one or two stray dogs at his heels. His family could never keep them, but that didn’t stop him from trying. When his mother asked him where he found so many dogs, he always responded: “They find me.” Here are our favorite sweet stories of pets finding homes during the pandemic.

Signorile’s love for dogs inspired him to get a job as a dog handler in Manhattan after college. After working his way up to managing the business, he took a leap and started his own doggie daycare in his Brooklyn neighborhood. Chasing Tails officially opened its doors in October 2011. “There was nothing in the area at the time, and the neighborhood desperately needed a dog care facility,” Signorile says. “It took some time, but once the dogs started coming in, they didn’t stop.”

Chasing Tails offered the works—including couches, recliners, bedrooms, private suites, and five play areas—for dogs staying anywhere from one day to several nights. While the daycare always had at least 20 dogs staying overnight, that number could reach up to 60 on weekends and holidays. “The staff and I worked like crazy to make sure dogs were their happiest self,” Signorile says. And their hard work was recognized: They won the Best of Brooklyn award for pet sitting for four years straight.

doggie daycare for essential workersCourtesy Matt Signorile

Crisis during COVID-19

In spring 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit New York City hard. Businesses across the city temporarily closed as New Yorkers hunkered down at home. But Chasing Tails “never even considered staying closed,” Signorile says. He told his staff to stay home, but he showed up to work each day for at least a dozen clients—all essential workers who needed someone to take care of their dogs during the day. “They were putting their lives on the line every day,” Signorile says. “The least I could do was watch their dogs while they braved working under these conditions.”

Many New Yorkers adopted pets during the pandemic, so Chasing Tails had an influx of new dogs when it fully reopened in June. But without people traveling for work and vacation, fewer dog owners needed to board their pups long-term. The decline of overnight stays took a toll on Signorile’s business. “Once I realized that there was no real end to this point in human history in sight, I had to make the painstaking decision to close,” he says. “It made the most sense for me and my family, but it was such a difficult realization to come to.” Read 23 good news stories that didn’t get enough attention this year.

“It’s time that we give back”

As word spread that Chasing Tails was closing, the neighborhood quickly rallied together to help Signorile and his family. Many people contacted Signorile to share their favorite memories of Chasing Tails and the impact he had on their pups. One of his neighbors, Margarita Polyak, even started a GoFundMe fundraiser to cover his bills. “Matt has given so much to the community and all of his clients, so I think it’s time that we give back to him,” she wrote on the fundraiser page. The community has raised over $8,000 so far.

For Signorile, the outpouring of support has been “incredible.” “It’s a nice reminder that there is some good in this world and you really do get back what you put in,” he says. “I put my heart and soul into this business, and all I’ve gotten back from everyone over the last month is that same love.” Although he doesn’t yet know what the next chapter holds, Signorile predicts it will include his passion: dogs. “I’m very lucky that I got to do something I loved for so long,” he says. “I’m even luckier to have been able to make a difference.”

Feeling inspired to help others during the pandemic? These 14 meaningful ways people are saying thank you to essential workers might give you some ideas.

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