South Paw Pet Resort is owned and operated by John and Denise Niemiec who made the Eastern Shore their home in October of 1995 and were married a year later. South Paw started as a vision that was inspired by a bond between John and Denise and their female black lab named Gabbie. Adopted from the Wicomico County Humane Society in 2002 as an 8-week-old puppy, she brought a love to our home we never imagined. She had an older brother named Barley who came to us as a stray a few years earlier. The two of them collectively stole our hearts. We quickly recognized that Gabbie always gave her left paw for high fives or a paw shake which earned her the nickname of "South Paw".

New land

Around the same time, we purchased a piece of land in Willards with the hope that someday we'd build a home there. A hand painted "for sale" sign nailed to a tree along the road is how we found the property. The land was a mess. 41 acres of timber that had recently been clear cut by a logging company. Most people thought we were crazy and at times we did too but there was a dream.

Barley dog


Gabbie dog


Fast forward 5 years

A rough driveway was cut in and a site had been cleaned up for a home. Shortly after we broke ground on what is our home today. The property had begun to heal, and small pine trees were growing again. We both had established corporate careers and as we were building our new home the market and economy were crashing. It was 2008. Corporate job cuts and layoffs became the norm every few months. Our jobs were at risk. We had put everything into the property and our new home and were determined not to let what would later be called "The Great Recession" crush our hopes of living the dream of the country lifestyle. Corporate life had become very unstable and rather painful most days.

We needed a plan B. Not just any plan B. It had to be something we loved and were truly passionate about and that would be as rewarding as it was enjoyable. We loved nothing more than our dogs and at that moment the idea of South Paw Pet Resort was born. Naming it after our left paw high fiving girl felt perfect. We set to work obtaining health department, zoning approval, and building permits during which time our home was finished and we had moved in.

We would stare out the kitchen window at an empty piece of dirt across the driveway trying to envision what South Paw Pet Resort would look like one day. The concept of South Paw was bits and pieces of all the kennels we had boarded our dogs at while we travelled the last dozen years. What we liked most about the facilities we embraced and improved on and what we didn't like, we decided to do differently. The result was a fully climate-controlled, stress-free environment with flexible hours that was open 7 days a week. Our mission was to create a worry-free experience in a clean, safe and loving place where people could bring their pets knowing they were in the best care possible.

Opened in December 2010

front of South Paw Pet Resort facilities

Barley Labrador dog
Gabbie Labrador dog

Construction was completed and we opened the doors in December 2010. Denise left her corporate career shortly after to operate the resort full time. Business started to grow and in 2016 we expanded the resort to what it is today. We are grateful for all our clients, past, present and future. It is truly our pleasure to serve you and your pets. South Paw has honestly been the most rewarding thing we have ever done and continue to do. A journey inspired by our love for our dogs.

Barley crossed the rainbow bridge in 2010 at the age of 15 and Gabbie followed in 2016, 2 months shy of her 15th birthday. Our lab family has continued to grow over the years. We currently share our home with 4 labs. Our black lab Webb (age 13) and our black lab Winston (age 9) who knew Gabbie as their big sister. They now have two little sisters, our black lab named Wren (age 2) and our yellow lab named Dakota (age 1). As the saying goes, there's always room for one more!

Winston, Gabbie and Webb Labrador dogs

Winston, Gabbie and Webb

Dakota and Wren Labrador dogs

Dakota and Wren

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