There was a time when we referred to our non-human companions as “the family pet.” Now, with more than 71 percent of adults in American living in households without children, the pet has, in fact, become the family.
The emotional void filled by our four-legged friends has made a significant impact on our lives and our economy. In 2017, Americans spent a total of $69.51 billion on their pets, up a whopping $3 billion in just one year. What won’t we do for our beloved companions?
They can invest completely in loving their companion animals, with no fear of the predictable—indeed, seemingly inevitable—period of rejection and turmoil that raising human teenagers brings. No dog ever pouts over whether his collar has the right brand name, what his curfew might be or whether he can have the car on Friday night. And, without the constraint of having to save to send them to college, Americans are free to indulge their pets with toys and treats.
Yes, loving an animal—and being loved in return—is infinitely less complex than raising a child. But it is not guilt free. The more we love, the more we worry about making our furry friends unhappy—and nothing makes a canine or feline friend unhappier than having their human go away.
An entire industry has grown up around these temporary disruptions. No longer do you just take your animal to a kennel and drop it off to sit in a cage while you luxuriate at the beach or tour Europe. People now spend as much time worrying about their pet’s accommodations as they do their own.
A plethora of inns and B&Bs throughout the region now offer the possibility of bringing your pet with you, charging an extra fee for the privilege. But for those who cannot accommodate a pet’s needs during a day of touring, pet resorts have become the next best option.
The advertisements for these luxury accommodations sound very much like those for their human counterparts. Sit Stay Play, an adjunct of the Sand Road Animal Hospital in Canaan, for instance, gets five-star reviews with its promise “to provide our canine and feline guests with our staff's love and attention, all the comforts of home, and veterinary care if needed.”
“All rooms have radiant heated floors and a private outside patio,” the website assures pet lovers. This makes it sound like a boutique hotel. Pet owners even have a choice of three different levels of luxury—The Classic, a large standard enclosure with a stainless bar front; The Premium, a large enclosure with a glass front “for a cozier feel”; and The Luxury, “suites” that are “perfect for the spoiled pooch.” There are only six Luxury Suites available—all in their own wing--each with its own ceiling fan to help keep the dog comfortable.
A “serenity wing” caters to anxious or elderly canines who prefer a quieter setting and special accommodations are available for puppies, or cats or dogs with special needs. Daily medications or insulin injections can be administered by the veterinary staff for an extra fee.
Personalized playtimes can be arranged with staff spending one-on-one time with boarders in one of two enclosed fields. In summer, they can play in a pool or perhaps have a brisk game of Frisbee.
Berkshire Pet Pals in Pittsfield specializes in long-term and special needs pets, providing pet sitting, dog walking and private boarding. A personal touch is at the core of its offerings up to and including overnight sleepovers with the animal if scheduled.
Instead of a kennel or a crate, the visitors will sleep on an overstuffed sofa or a raised dog bed, both with comfy pillows and blankets in the dog room. The cat room has a twin-size bed with “doggy steps” if needed. Both rooms offer the guests television programs –Animal Planet or DVDs—and iPod docks with a radio that plays Music My Pet or tunes provided by the owner. Private refrigerators/freezers in both rooms will preserve the pets’ personal perishables.
A fenced acre of land provides room for dogs to exercise, while the cat room has seven-foot-tall cat tree and bird and squirrel feeders at the windows to entertain and divert the felines.
At the Ledgewood Kennel in Millerton, dogs can go to a “swim camp” at its K9 Aquatics & Sports Facility where “dock diving” is the rage. In dock diving dogs attempt the highest, or longest distance jumps from a scaffold over a specially designed diving pool. The Ledgewood Kennel facility, which was featured on CBS’ Early Show, provides dock dive training for all qualifying dog/handler teams.
At Ledgewood, grooming is available from Rosie’s Grooming, a professional dog grooming service whose owner, Rosanny Urena, provided her services for 12 years at the exclusive pet boutique, Le Chien, at Trump Plaza. Urena still makes appearances at The Dog Store, a high-end dog grooming salon and boutique on the Upper East Side.
In Sheffield, grooming is taken seriously as well. The Bowmeow Regency has internationally trained and certified pet aestheticians who have trained in the Science of Skin course to learn effective treatments for skin and coat issues and skin and hair maintenance routines. Luxury IV San Bernard products are used such as Caviar Shampoo and the Black Passion Line, containing argan oil and extracts of seaweed, said to protect the pet’s fur against free radicals and aging.
Dogs aren’t the only ones that need occasional pampering. Purradise, the Berkshire Humane Society’s satellite feline adoption center in Great Barrington, now offers feline boarding services. In addition to Purradise’s cozy condos, visiting felines have access to a large sunroom at least three times per day where they can run, play and lounge on cat towers and beds while enjoying the outdoor view through the window-enclosed space.
“This is a service we have wanted to provide for a very long time,” said Erin Starsja, feline manager for BHS. “We understand there is a need in the community. People want to know that their cats are well-cared for–especially if they have special needs–so they don’t have to worry when they are traveling.
The Purradise staff is trained in feline care and behavior with years of experience that allows it to anticipate and accommodate a cat’s wants and needs, as well as to administer medications, meet special dietary needs and other requirements a cat may have.
Boarding cats at the facility has the added benefit of providing another revenue stream for the Humane Society so it can reach more homeless animals. Additional information is available by calling 413-717-4244 or by visiting berkshirehumane.org.