In the Dog Days of August, a Dog's Life Is Nothing To Sniff At
ROBERT M. ANDREWS
Aug. 21, 1991
WASHINGTON (AP) _ So you dumped Fido at the kennel and headed for a week at the beach. After a few sunny days of self-indulgent sloth, you miss his slobbery kisses, his thumping tail. You're stricken with guilt.
Oh, poor Fido.
Wrong. If Fido could talk, he'd probably admit that he's spending the dog days of August living in the lap of luxury.
To assuage the guilt pangs of pet owners, kennels across the country are pampering their guests with all the creature comforts of home, and much more. Many offer health food diets, purified air, shampoos and pedicures, Frisbee games, guided nature hikes and door-to-door ''limousine'' service.
Finicky pooches are tempted with chicken patties, hamburgers, hot dogs slathered with catsup or homemade ''salty dog'' steak sandwiches.
For the ultimate in luxury accommodations, the 400-room American Pet Motel in Prairie View, Ill., advertises fully carpeted ''regency suites'' for well- heeled canines at $18 a day. There's a yearlong waiting list for reservations.
This is no fleabag motel. The amenities include brass beds with overstuffed mattresses, personal towel racks, color TV sets showing ''Lassie'' reruns, twice-a-day ''cookie breaks'' and private telephones for calls from anxious owners.
''The biggest challenge in operating a kennel is not dealing with the pets - they're easy - but dealing with the guilt feelings of the clients,'' said Tom Benson, owner of Woodlawn Kennels in Alexandria, Va., near Washington.
''It's unfortunate, but some people are neurotic about leaving their 'child' with somebody they don't know,'' he said. ''They unload all their anxieties on their pet.
''But once the dog goes behind that door, it's out of sight, out of mind. Right away, he's barking, running around, wagging his tail and having a ball. In most cases, home is a bore compared to a kennel.''
Benson pipes soft music from an easy-listening radio station into each kennel to calm over-excited guests. An electronic air purifier that emits negatively charged ions reduces bacteria and unpleasant odors in the atmosphere.
A few years ago, Benson considered installing 8-by-10-foot doggie living rooms furnished with sofas, easy chairs and coffee tables, with pictures on the walls and a TV set in the corner. But he dropped the idea when he calculated it would cost $30 a day to clean and repair each room.
''It wasn't necessary for the dogs, but it was pacification for their owners,'' he said.
Joyce Burdette, owner of Misty Ridge Animal Resort and Boarding Kennel in rural Maryland north of Washington, said urban-weary dogs enjoy romping through the woods on guided ''nature walks'' or gawking at pigs and other farm animals. Feline guests watch birds through big picture windows.
One of the highlights of the Preston Country Club for Pets in Columbia, Md., is ''our gourmet cooking,'' said co-owner Lois Preston.
If a canine guest balks at traditional feeding bowl fare, Ms. Preston serves freshly cooked chicken patties with rice, or hot dogs with catsup. If all else fails, she said, ''we drive up the road for the sure-fire thing - a McDonald's hamburger with bun and all, except for pickles.''
Jim Krack, executive director of the American Boarding Kennels Association, said the nation's 6,500 kennel owners are competing to satisfy the demands of Americans, especially busy working couples, who increasingly regard their pets as surrogate children.
''Kennels provide two things: care for pets and peace of mind for pet owners,'' Krack said.
''Dogs are colorblind, so we have to assume that those color TV sets are actually intended to make pet owners more comfortable with the kennel, rather than the dog.''