Since last summer, the favorite happy place of the Siegel family — Jennifer and Barry, and their boys, Alex and Max — has been Doggie Style Pets in Narberth.

Doggie Style, a chain with 10 locations around the Philadelphia area and one in San Diego, Calif., offers pets for adoption at its shops, where the animals are sheltered in cozy “adoption rooms” and cared for by staff until Doggie Style finds them permanent homes. At many of the stores, the dogs lounge in the front window, easily seen by passersby.

The chain’s staff relies heavily on volunteers to exercise the animals, and each store has a devoted core of dog lovers — including the Siegels — who do just that. The coronavirus has put a temporary pause on Doggie Style’s volunteer dog walking, and its adoptable animals are being fostered by volunteers and at a rescue shelter for now.

Doggie Style co-owner Howard Nelson said he hopes to start placing dogs for adoption at his stores again next week. Dog walking (at a safe distance apart from other dog walkers) can’t return soon enough for the Siegels — it’s become a passion project for the whole family.

Barry and Jennifer Siegel walk a rescue dog along with their two sons, Alex, left, and Max, around the block from the Doggie Style Pets store in Narberth, Pa., on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. Doggie Style is a chain of pet stores that also works with an animal rescue organization to get dogs fostered and/or adopted. The Siegels stop by Doggie Style two or three times a week to walk whichever rescue dogs are there at the time.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
Barry and Jennifer Siegel walk a rescue dog along with their two sons, Alex, left, and Max, around the block from the Doggie Style Pets store in Narberth, Pa., on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. Doggie Style is a chain of pet stores that also works with an animal rescue organization to get dogs fostered and/or adopted. The Siegels stop by Doggie Style two or three times a week to walk whichever rescue dogs are there at the time.

Here’s how their devotion played out — and how they expect it to again, once things return to normal:

At least three times during the week, usually after dinner, two or more Siegels would make the short ride from their home in Penn Valley to Doggie Style’s Narberth shop on Montgomery Avenue, leash up the dogs, and take them for brisk laps around the block.

On Saturdays, though, Barry and Max, 11, would go into warp speed. After walking the Narberth animals, they’d head to Doggie Style’s other shops to do the same. They were regulars at the chain’s locations in Fishtown, Northern Liberties, and South Philly, but have logged time at all 10 local shops. Some days, they wouldn’t get home until dinner time.

“It takes up the whole day, but it’s worth it,” laughed Barry, 56, who works in finance. “Jenn and I try to instill a sense of service and volunteerism in the kids, and the staff at Doggie Style have made it easy. This has been one of the best things we’ve ever done as a family.”

Added Jennifer, 49, a consultant, “This has bonded us in an incredible way.”

The Siegel family poses for a portrait outside of the Doggie Style Pets store in Narberth, Pa., on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. Doggie Style is a chain of pet stores that also works with an animal rescue organization to get dogs fostered and/or adopted. The Siegels stop by Doggie Style two or three times a week to walk whichever rescue dogs are there at the time.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
The Siegel family poses for a portrait outside of the Doggie Style Pets store in Narberth, Pa., on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. Doggie Style is a chain of pet stores that also works with an animal rescue organization to get dogs fostered and/or adopted. The Siegels stop by Doggie Style two or three times a week to walk whichever rescue dogs are there at the time.

Their words are music to the ears of Doggie Style’s Nelson. A rabid animal advocate, he started working at the company in 2007, finalized its in-house animal adoption program (for dogs and cats) in 2008, and then bought the business in 2014 with partner Kenneth Karlan.

(The company is currently involved in litigation with a former client, whom the company has sued for defamation following the death of the client’s dog, who had undergone grooming at the Narberth shop.)

They have since founded the nonprofit Saved Me Inc., an animal rescue shelter, and the Pet Mechanic, a two-site veterinary practice that provides medical care, gratis, to Saved Me’s animals to get them adoption-ready.

As of February, Doggie Style had overseen the adoption of 10,375 animals, a staggering number that would not be possible, said Nelson, without the passion of its animal-loving employees and volunteers like the Siegels.

Stephanie Chando, left, and her fiancé, Mariah Moore, attempted to take a photo with their dog, Cole, during a celebration of Doggie Style Pets' 10,000th pet adoption last August. As of last month, the number has climbed to 10,375, said Doggie Style co-owner Howard Nelson.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
Stephanie Chando, left, and her fiancé, Mariah Moore, attempted to take a photo with their dog, Cole, during a celebration of Doggie Style Pets' 10,000th pet adoption last August. As of last month, the number has climbed to 10,375, said Doggie Style co-owner Howard Nelson.

“We could never do this alone,” he said.

The seeds of the Siegel family’s obsession were planted last summer when Alex, 13, a seventh grader at Welsh Valley Middle School, was preparing for his bar mitzvah. Part of the process involved taking on a themed service project, and he chose animal advocacy.

In the course of learning about abandoned and rescued dogs and volunteering at fund-raising events for the cause, he started walking the pups at Doggie Style, accompanied by his family. The volunteering continued long after Alex’s bar mitzvah in October. They even fostered one of the dogs over the winter holidays, when volunteers are scarce.

They loved everything about the experience:

The kind, animal-loving staffers who patiently indulged endless questions from their sons (especially Max) regarding all things canine.

The customers, some of whom adopted the dogs the Siegels had come to love — and then stayed in touch so the family could keep the connection.

The chance to care, as a family, for vulnerable beings so clearly in need.

Max Siegel plays with a rescue dog outside of the Doggie Style Pets store in Narberth, Pa., on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. Doggie Style is a chain of pet stores that also works with an animal rescue organization to get dogs fostered and/or adopted. The Siegels stop by Doggie Style two or three times a week to walk whichever rescue dogs are there at the time.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
Max Siegel plays with a rescue dog outside of the Doggie Style Pets store in Narberth, Pa., on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. Doggie Style is a chain of pet stores that also works with an animal rescue organization to get dogs fostered and/or adopted. The Siegels stop by Doggie Style two or three times a week to walk whichever rescue dogs are there at the time.

The experience has especially impacted Max, a fifth grader at Belmont Hills Elementary School, who now follows “every animal advocacy group he can find” on social media, according to his dad. He envisions a future career in the field.

“I know all the breeds now,” he said proudly on a recent Saturday weekend, before the quarantine went into effect, as he, Alex, and their parents leashed up one of the Narberth dogs for a morning walk.

But the biggest convert to the animal cause may well be Jennifer.

For years, her sons had hankered for a dog, but her family is busy. She and Barry work full time, their home life is filled with after-school activities and homework, and their weekends are crammed. Adding a dog into the mix didn’t make sense to her and Barry — neither of whom grew up with animals. They hoped that volunteering at Doggie Style would sate their boys’ desire for puppy love.

But then the Siegels walked Jax, a chocolate-brown Labrador puppy, and Jennifer felt a lock on her heart like she’d never felt with any other animal. Her family adopted Jax soon after.

“I can’t describe this feeling,” said Jennifer, whose sons are over the moon with joy to have a dog of their own. “I guess you have to find the right dog. Because Jax was just meant for us.”