“Thank you for calling Holiday Barn, Glen Allen, one of the world’s finest resorts. To make a vacation reservation, press one ... If your pet is vacationing with us and you’d like to hear how much fun he or she is having, press three ...”
These days, when vacationers are unable to bring their pets along, booking them into a pet resort guarantees animal will be having as much fun as owner.
With luxurious suites, 24-hour room service, pampering spa services, hiking, swimming and other sports — not to mention personal feline or canine chefs to attend to finicky eaters — these resorts are a far cry from the typical boarding kennels (which, not long ago, resembled stark animal shelters).
The Holiday Barn has seen the changing face of the pet leisure industry since it first opened its doors more than 30 years ago.
“Back in the ’70s, it was a kennel-styled facility like any other,” said resort manager Glenda Schroeder. “Today, it reflects the needs of the pet industry and we have guests that have been coming here regularly since they were puppies or kittens.” The facility features raised dog beds and TVs set to the cartoon channel, but “parents can request a channel change if their pet prefers watching people on the news or real animals on Animal Planet.”
The Pet Palace in Houston sends a chauffeur-driven limousine to pick up guests from their homes. The vehicle bar is stocked with chilled water and pet treats to ensure pets are comfortable and relaxed. The resort itself has themed suites, such as the Elvis Suite, the Marilyn Monroe Suite and the very popular Log Cabin.
“People actually request specific accommodation for their pets,” said owner Darrell Bivens. “In fact, the themed suites are in such high demand that often some regular customers make their travel plans around when a particular suite is available.” Themed rooms cost about $40 a day.
Cats are welcome at the Pet Palace, too. “The Feline Chateau consists of condos that all face a 200-gallon fish tank, with inter-leading condos for owners who have several felines,” Bivens added. “The rates range between $16 and $22 a day.”
For cat owners who don’t want their pets bothered by the noise of yapping puppies, there are now exclusive cat hotels, such as Feline Wishes and Caviar Dreams in San Francisco, where cats have a choice of three different styles of suites, and indeed get a “caviar” treat before bedtime.
“It’s actually tuna because they prefer it,” confessed owner Lisa Semple.
All these stylish pet resorts offer day-camp styled activities with swimming and hiking and special play times for dogs. Such fun and games are usually included in the daily rate. Feline guests get special kitty playtime, and many facilities have special secure areas where cats are allowed to stretch out.
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Pet lovers who are not satisfied with a phone call to check up on their pets can opt for resorts such as the Barkington Inn near Houston and the Santana Pet Resort and More in Winnipeg, Canada, that have Web cams set up so they can have a peek for themselves.
“Our suites with Web cams are booked months in advance,” said Santana Pet Resort's Iain McIver. “People check in on their pets from around the world. We once had an incident where two pets were fighting over their food bowl and one of our staff had to step in and referee the situation. Moments later, the dogs’ owners called from California to thank us for sorting it out.”
“Our Web cams are equipped with night vision ... and our system also has voice recognition which means that owners can call in and speak to their pets. Of course [owners] have a Web cam on their side, the pets can watch their owners too.”
Like the human hotel industry, prices can vary greatly. At the Yankee Dog Retreat, a small B&B-styled getaway outside Boston designed for overnight and short stays, canine guests pay $100 a day — a rate that includes a spa massage, paw balm treatment and an outing to a dog park or even a ferry ride to Nantucket Island. Owner Jennifer Cermak had to rethink her advertising campaign — “Your best friend deserves the best” — to stop calls from people looking to treat their human best friends to a luxury stay.
At Manhattan's Ritzy Canine Carriage House, guests are charged by weight. Svelte and petite guests that weigh under 20 pounds are charged $55 a night; larger guests pay $75 or more. Everyone gets to enjoy yappy hour at the establishment’s rooftop garden that features an Italian-styled drinking fountain. Guests are requested not to skinny dip.
The most expensive room — $195 a night — can be found at the luxurious Chateau Poochie, a $2 million resort in Pompano Beach, Fla. Owner Amy Jo Birkenes, a former pet nutritionist, traversed the globe for three years visiting other establishments before she called in an architect and interior designer to style the 16-by-20-foot suites that have real king-size beds and a canine concierge who sleeps next to your pooch to attend to their every need. The Cat Palace Boudoir offers three-tiered condos, and a litter area with virtual fish tanks for entertainment.
The resort has three playrooms, including a teacup room for small pets and a staffed senior center for older guests. The wellness center offers all sorts of treatments, and you can shop until you drop in the stylish boutique.
According to some estimates, the pet industry will rake in $43 billion this year, yielding more revenue than toys and candy combined. With posh digs like these, it's easy to understand why.
Sandy Robins is an award-winning pet lifestyle writer. She is the recent recipient of the Humane Society of the United States' Pets for Life Award. Her work appears in many national and international publications.
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