Activities Director, Michael E. Lachance with his Daycamp group at the Resort. Telegram and Gazette 1/25/09
Captain Morgan and his owner Janine Farrar checking out of the Resort after a fun filled day of Daycamp. Telegram and Gazette 1/25/09
Worcester Telegram and Gazette January 25. 2009 9:08AM Bark-keepers Luxury lodging new trend in pet care MODERN LIVING By Kim Ring TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF Janine Farrar of Charlton picks up her dog, Captain Morgan, after day camp at The Barkwood Inn in Charlton. She brings the dog to camp three or four times a week. (T&G Staff Photos / TOM RETTIG) CHARLTON — A Rottweiler’s eyebrows rise as people pass by the glass door on his suite. Inside the deluxe accommodations, the dog can watch Animal Planet on a flat screen television, listen to soothing music and dream of the playtime that’s coming up later. On this day, he naps quietly on a bed and could be, at any time, viewed on a webcam by his owners, who are in India for a month. “It does provide peace of mind,” said James A. Frissell, the resort manager of The Barkwood Inn, a high-end boarding facility for cats and dogs. The facility was designed with people like Mr. Frissell — the kind who’d eat “ketchup and rice” before denying their dogs food — in mind. Barbara J. and Timothy P. Gringas have long thought of owning a boarding kennel but Mrs. Gringas, a veterinary technician, wanted something different. The little Maltese she once had wouldn’t have fared well in a kennel with a concrete floor and chain-link walls, so she’d leave the dog with her mother. That wasn’t the best fit, either, because the canine aunts and uncles didn’t get along with her little dog. Their research showed a growing trend, especially in the West, toward more home-like boarding facilities where dogs aren’t caged but contained in a room, sometimes with furniture and familiar items. The same was true for cats which, when boarded, are often kept in small cages. Over the years, the Gringases thought of just about everything for the dream resort they hoped to open one day and Mrs. Gringas eventually called to inquire about some acreage on Route 20 at the Oxford town line. The price was too high but she asked if, maybe, the owner would subdivide and was happy to hear she and her husband could afford the 6.5 acres they wanted. After the bank did some research into just how lucrative such an endeavor might be, the project had funding and the Gringases broke ground early last year. The facility opened in October. Since then, without any advertising, business has picked up and 75 percent of the suites were full during the December ice storm. “People said, ‘I can put on a sweater but my dog is cold,’ ” Mr. Frissell said. With prices per day ranging from $25 for a junior suite to $45 for a VIP suite that includes a private, fenced peastone patio, some might think the accommodations frivolous for a pet. But the prices are in line with other boarding facilities that offer less, the Gringases said. More plush facilities seem to be gaining popularity, even in an economic downturn, said Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald of the Alameda East Veterinary Hospital in Denver. “There’s a change in people’s perception of animals,” said Dr. Fitzgerald, who appears on Animal Planet’s “Emergency Vets” show. “People marry later or they don’t marry and animals take on significance to the point where it seems like pet is the wrong word.” But is a flat screen television really necessary for a dog to be content while its owner is out of town? “Some of it is to treat our guilt, to assuage our guilt,” Dr. Fitzgerald said. “Is there anything wrong with it? No. These animals are living creatures . . . we can mistreat them by not paying enough attention to them.” In a sense, a high-end boarding facility that leaves a pet owner with peace of mind might be better for that animal because “they are sensitive to our emotions,” according to Dr. Fitzgerald. One of his clients, a flight attendant, has a cat that vomits each time she takes out her travel bag. That cat is part of the family. According to Dr. Fitzgerald, a 1957 study by the American Veterinary Association showed 43 percent of those surveyed considered their pets a part of the family. In 2004, the number climbed to 96 percent. “Sometimes, we’re putting human emotions on our animals,” he said. In Watertown, at the Toureen Pet Spa and Resort, there’s no pressure to upgrade to an expensive suite — but such amenities are available and many clients use them. Owner Christopher R. Callanan has been working at the kennel-turned-resort since he was about 12. His grandfather started the business, which now offers much more than the traditional “chain link, concrete and bleach.” There’s playtime, an evening treat, grooming and walks by the river. Players from various area sports teams use the facility; a captain from the New York Rangers sometimes leaves his pet there. The dog is treated well, despite the hockey rivalry. Mr. Callanan said he’s seen people’s attitudes about their pets evolve and he knows, because he’s experienced it himself — it can be difficult to leave a furry family member behind. “It’s even worse than leaving your kid because your kid can tell you, ‘I hate that place,’ but your dog can’t say anything,” he said. While some clients have the money to spare no luxuries for their pets, Mr. Callanan is quick to point out that they don’t need to feel guilt if they don’t choose a luxury suite. “We’ve been doing this for years,” he said. “And we’ve only had suites since last year.” Contact Kim Ring by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
News articles from local publications dated 1/23/09
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