McHenry animal clinic opens indoor dog park at new downtown digs

Plans underway to offer equine feed

McHenry business owner Cristen Carlson is worried about the effect the pandemic is having on dogs.

With social distancing practices being observed in many homes during the outbreak, plus winter weather limiting the appeal of a trip to an outdoor dog park, family pets may lose social skills and their familiarity with being around people and other animals from outside the household, said Carlson, general manager of Riverside Animal Clinic and Holistic Center in McHenry.

When the business in April moved into a much larger space at 1112 Front St., it dedicated about 2,500 square feet to what Carlson said is the city’s only indoor dog park.

The indoor dog park allows pets to socialize with each other during the day.

Pierogi, a cocker spaniel puppy belonging to McHenry resident Melissa Cholewinski, enjoyed a visit and the chance it gave him to run around the park with some older canines.

“He loves it,” Cholewinski said, adding that when he visits, she checks a device she straps to his collar known as a FitBark, which counts the steps a dog takes “like a FitBit for dogs,” she said.

“He easily gets his steps in,” she said of Pierogi’s visits to the new indoor dog park space, which is being called American Indoor Dog Park, within the larger Riverside Animal Clinic and Holistic Center business.

It features a 500-gallon koi pond and a climbing wagon, as well as open play space. Carlson and her husband, Jim Carlson, who earned a doctorate in veterinary medicine from Iowa State University, own it along with the rest of the Riverside clinic at the Front Street address.

Cholewinski began bringing her dog, who is about 7 months old, to the business last year after it moved into the bigger Front Street space from a small office on Route 120 near the McHenry Veterans of Foreign Wars post.

“Many people have adopted dogs or puppies during COVID,” Jim Carlson said in a news release. “It’s imperative that pets are exercised and socialized to create a balanced dog – and to get them comfortable around a variety of people, animals and situations.”

The business is also in the middle of making another pivot, Cristen Carlson said, as it tries to bring on horse food to retail in addition to the other animal food and health products it sells.

After Stock and Field, the agricultural product retailer with a store in McHenry, announced this month it’s set to close all 25 of its locations, Cristen Carlson realized there would be nowhere left in the city to buy equine products.

She now is working to bring such merchandise into Riverside’s business, so local horse owners could be spared from having to drive farther from their homes to get supplies for their animals once Stock and Field is gone.

“It’s really exciting,” Cristen Carlson said of being in the new space. She feels the higher-profile location, along with the couple’s podcast, “Awesome Woo Woo Holistic Vet Advice,” available on, already has drawn new clientele, and raised awareness of Riverside even outside of Illinois’ borders.

Pet owners from New York and Arizona have transported their animals to receive the care given at Riverside, Cristen Carlson said.

“Our clientele, since we moved in here, has gone to people calling in from all over the world,” Cristen Carlson said.

Sam Lounsberry

Sam Lounsberry covers local government, business, K-12 education and all other aspects of life in McHenry County, in particular in the communities of Woodstock, McHenry, Richmond, Spring Grove, Wonder Lake and Johnsburg.