Unleash the dogs

Some dog owners feel guilty about leaving their dogs at home while at work. So, many hire dog walkers or drop them off at doggy daycare.

But Kyle Wortham saw an opportunity for another option. Wortham, of Ukrainian Village, created Nature Dog, a dog adventure company, last month. It's a mobile service that runs seven days a week and picks up dogs from their homes in Chicago and drives them to the Prairie Wolf Dog Exercise Area at the Lake County Forest Preserve.

His company's slogan: "If dogs were meant to play inside, they'd be called cats." He spends about an hour to an hour and a half playing with the dogs at the nature area. There, dogs can be unleashed to roam freely through prairies and trails, exercise, and be social. The 44-acre area, which is fenced and requires permits to access, also has a swimming pond.

"About 50 or 60 minutes into it, they're exhausted," he said. After their trek, he rinses the dogs off and towel dries them. "What's great is on the ride home, they're passed out."

His clients, mainly from Wicker Park, Old Town and Streeterville, pay $49 per trip.

"There's not one place in Chicago where you can let a dog off leash on the grass area, not one place," said Wortham, 40, a former marketing director. Montrose dog beach is the closest thing and far more crowded. Dog parks in the city are mostly on concrete.

"We've had dogs out here who get off the leash - city dogs - and they're like, 'What am I supposed to do?' They're a little bit hesitant 20 to 30 minutes into it. But they run with the pack and they love it. They just let loose and it's kind of fun to see city dogs do that," Wortham said.

(By Leonor Vivanco/RedEye)

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