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Spoil Your Pet

From exclusive social clubs and therapeutic massage sessions to fine art portraits and haute couture, here are a handful (or is it pawful?) of ways to show your love.

by Marilyn Odesser Torpey

Rolex is a standard poodle whose human companion is Don Brown, owner of the Academy of Dog Training and Agility in Newark. Photograph by Jared CastaldiStart off the day socializing with friends, then it’s off to a session with the personal trainer and a few laps in the pool. Make sure you schedule in some “me” time for a bubble bath, massage and gourmet meal before heading back to the condo for some TV and a good night’s sleep. It’s a day fit for a Hilton heiress—or your precious pooch.

There are plenty of perks to make life more luxe for your cherished cat, beloved bird or bunny—even your favorite fish, ferret, gerbil, hamster, guinea pig or mouse. Delaware companies offer a wide range of products and services for creatures great and small. Some focus on health or home-away-from-home comfort and safety. Others are purely for pampering. And who deserves it more than your very best friend? Start here.
 

 

Basic Training

Give Don and Anna Brown eight weeks at their Academy of Dog Training and Agility in Newark (588-4636, academyofdogtraining.com) and they’ll give you a dog that sits, stays and comes on command. An eight-week Puppy Head Start program focuses on housebreaking and discouraging chewing and other destructive behaviors that are all too often part of the exuberance of youth. Cost is $100 for each eight-week session. The academy also has an indoor pool for therapeutic and recreational swimming.

Chuck the choke collars. Take your pal for some gentle etiquette instruction at Greenwood Dog Training School in Wilmington (998-8770, greenwooddogs.com), which offers six- to eight-week group beginner and advanced classes for $125 to $145. Private customized puppy classes that help with specific behavioral issues are available in your home, the homes of owners Susan Greenholt and Mary Woodward, or at the facility ($65).
 

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Healthy Savings

Partnering with the Delaware Humane Association, local veterinarians provide low-cost rabies and bordetella (kennel cough) vaccinations and distemper vaccines ($15 each) at various wellness clinics in New Castle and Kent counties. They will also microchip your pet for permanent identification and peace of mind ($25). Check the Humane Association’s Website (dehumane.org), or call 571-0111 for clinic locations and schedules.
 

Personal Fitness

The National Academy of Science reports that one in four pets presented at clinics are overweight, putting them at risk for medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and joint and hip problems—just like people. At Fetch! Pet Care in New Castle (322-8980, fetchpetcare.com), owner Tori Carter will customize a fitness program of daily walking, running and play tailored to your dog or cat’s age, ability, health condition, temperament and preferences. Cost is $18 per half-hour workout and $30 an hour.
 

Caring Companionship, Cozy Quarters

You don’t have to worry that your dog or cat is starving for attention (or destroying the furniture) while you’re at work or suffer a guilt trip because you need to travel. Licensed, bonded and insured pet sitters will provide care, maintenance and companionship in your home. Services range from some mid-day exercise and cuddles to medication dispensing to all-inclusive overnighters. Local kennels and catteries offer spacious accommodations with a host of resort-like amenities, lots of room to play and an abundance of human interaction and affection. (Many services offer discounts for multiple days and more than one pet.)
 

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Feline guests enjoy one of the villas at Happy Tails Pet Retreat in Georgetown. Photograph by Jared CastaldiThough the phone number is 521-BARK, Home Buddies in Newark (campbowwow.com) offers in-home visits and overnight care for all kinds of critters, including ones that mew, chirp and slither. (Rates range from $15 to $80). Home Buddies operator Laurie Williams says that owners also like to be able to keep an eye on their pets over the Internet via two cameras her company will install in their homes ($70 per week). Williams’ clients can also take their pets to her Camp Bow Wow for indoor and outdoor play-filled daytime and overnight stays ($28 and $38). A live Camper Cam allows owners to view their pets online anytime. All overnight campers have their own cabins complete with canine cot and fleece blanket. Soft music and a “campfire” bedtime snack gently lull them to sleep.

You’d never forget your best friend’s birthday. Neither would the owners of Bark Avenue Dog Day Camp in Claymont (792-2403, barkavenueddc.com). Day and overnight campers will be feted with a full party, including cake, party hat, play buddies and pictures at no extra charge. The full day rate is $25. Overnights are $15 on weeknights, $30 on weekends and holidays.

At Dogtopia Daycare & Spa in Wilmington (622-8388, dogdaycare.com), small, gentle dogs play together in the facility’s romper room, while larger breeds expend their energy in a large gym. There’s even a special room for elderly dogs that require a quiet environment and calm companions. Web cams allow clients to check on their pet throughout the day. Day ($28) and overnight ($20) care are available. Add a soothing bath before pick-up or bedtime for $15. If bath time is bonding time for you and your buddy, there’s a do-it-yourself option using the spa’s high tubs, towels and shampoo.

Hans, a Belgian Malinois, takes a dip at the Swimming Paws Swim Center at the Academy of Dog Training and Agility in Newark. Photograph by Jared CastaldiOutdoor runs and indoor field trips at Animal Inn in Cheswold (653-5560) give Rover ample exercise opportunities ($15 per day). Grooming ($40) includes an invigorating HydroSurge bath.

There’s plenty of indoor and outdoor play at All Aboard Grooming and Kennels in Dagsboro (732-9268, allaboardkennel.com), but that doesn’t mean a dog doesn’t enjoy a little downtime at the end of the day. Book your Bowser into one of the Presidential Suites that come with TVs and fireplaces. Rates begin at $17 a night ($12 for cats) for basic accommodations to $27 for Presidential Suites.
 

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Kitties get their own condos ranging from 4 square feet to a three-story “king suite” at Never Neverland Kennel & Cattery in Lewes (645-6140, lightbluedot.com/nnlk). Amenities include shelves and gyms to climb on, cubbies to snuggle in, a fish tank to watch and soothing music for sleepy time. Potty-trained pets even have use of a full-size toilet. Condos range from $17 to $25 a day. Neverland also welcomes rabbits and other small animals.

Nicole Scott, owner of Birds of Choice in Delmar, grooms a blue and gold macaw. Photograph by Jared CastaldiBoth dogs and cats get the royal treatment at Happy Tails Pet Retreat in Georgetown (856-7900, happytailspetretreat.com). All deluxe rooms, suites, cottages and villas are filled with natural light from windows and skylights. All dogs have large yards for outdoor play and 24-hour access to private, covered patios. For TV hounds, book a luxury suite, which comes with a 19-inch flat screen. Cats have a tower to scale, shelves to recline on and feather-tailed mice to chase. Accommodations start at $27 a night for dogs, $18 for cats. Doggie divas can also indulge in spa packages ($15 to $55) that may include a “pawdicure” with soothing butter treatment, nail painting, a bubble bath and an all-natural blueberry facial. Owner Nichole Bower welcomes other small animals, including rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets, hamsters and, she says, “we’ve even hosted a duck.”

Not everyone offers birdie boarding. But Birds of Choice in Delmar (877-300-3531, birdsofchoice.com) cares for every breed from parakeets ($2.50) to large parrots ($10). Guests feast on a healthful bird buffet including fresh and dried fruits and veggies, brown rice or pasta, and other nutritious ingredients that are custom-blended by owner Nicole Scott. Playstands allow guests to stretch their wings. Daily handling (for those who enjoy it) keeps them feeling like they’re part of the flock. Scott also sells some interesting merchandise such as leashed FlightSuits with built-in diapers and Feather Tether harnesses that let birds of all sizes and their owners enjoy the great outdoors safely.
 

Beach Buddies

You’re not the only one who could use a vacation at the beach. Your well-behaved, housebroken pet is welcome at the Lazy L at Willow Creek Bed and Breakfast in Lewes (644-7220, lazyl.net), where there’s a large fenced-in area for supervised romping on- and off-leash, poolside privileges (but no swimming), and an outside shower to cleanse paws of sand and salt.

In Rehoboth Beach, Canalside Inn (226-2006, canalside-inn-rehoboth.com) happily accommodates dogs and cats and donates part of your pet fee to Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary. Pampered Pet (803F Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-1871) and A Wizard of Paws Dog Grooming (4377 Coastal Hwy., No. 13, Rehoboth Beach, 227-9070) also offer daycare.

Looking to romp on the beach? Rules for pets vary by town. Dewey Beach puts the fewest restrictions on dog owners, allowing owners and their “under control” pets to stroll on the sand (except during the hours of 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. from May 15 to September 15). In Rehoboth dogs are allowed on the beach from November 1 to March 31.
 

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Awesome Abodes

Fish don’t ask for much. But caring for them correctly requires a little more thought and effort than just providing a tank of clean water, says Bob Geren, manager of Fishman Aquarium in Wilmington (658-8265, fishmanaquariumcenter.com). Fishman specializes in advising fin fans to set up, stock and maintain happy, healthful aquariums and ponds for their tropical or freshwater species. Fishman offers in-home installation and follow-up service.

Kids can color the fanciful facade of the cardboard Cat Castle to make it cool enough for Her Royal Kitty-ness. It even has a rug roof to allow her to survey her kingdom in comfort. It’s available at Concord Pet Foods & Supplies (various locations, concordpetfoods.com). Hansel and Gretel may not have liked it, but your hamsters, gerbils, mice or other small pets will love nibbling on their 100 percent edible thatch-roofed Snak Shak Natural Hideaway, also at Concord.
 

Healing Hands

Certified animal massage therapist Diane Mayer’s goal is to build a brick and mortar holistic wellness center, Gentle Spirit Farm, where she can offer therapeutic treatments and pet-owner education programs designed to “transform lives on both sides of the leash.” In the meantime, she provides stress-reducing, immune system-boosting massage therapy ($65) and reiki ($50) treatments in clients’ homes ($65, 428-0809, gentlespiritfarm.com). The treatments are especially beneficial for dogs who suffer from arthritis or other illness-related or post-surgical pain, excessive aggression and traumatic touch experiences. For owners who want to learn to identify their pets’ needs and apply massage techniques at home, Mayer has designed a hands-on workshop ($195 for three sessions). She offers diet- and lifestyle-focused wellness consultations ($95) and teaches two-hour classes on interpreting animal body language, developing stronger owner-pet relationships, designing healthful diets and caring for aging pets ($35 per person). Warm water hydrotherapy swim sessions are also available from April through September to help dogs relieve excess energy or anxiety, lose weight or have fun ($35).
 

House Calls

If you don’t have time to go to the vet or have a pet that doesn’t travel well, Animal Haven Veterinary Center of Bear (326-1400, animalhavenvetcenter.com) will make house calls via its medical mobile unit ($69 to $199). At Your Door Mobile Pet Waggin of Middletown (378-6125, petwaggin.org) has been providing salon services for friendly dogs and cats since 1995. Choose from a menu of services that range from HydroSurge therapeutic baths to trims and custom cuts. Prices begin at $80. For basic maintenance and luxurious hydro massage baths, certified grooming professional Chris Gordy will take her Top Dog Styler Mobile Grooming Salon of Smyrna (437-5298) right to your door. (Prices begin at $75.) Whether you want to treat your dog to a hydro bath (prices start at $30), a blueberry facial, trim or another service, Sandy Vanderhoff’s Newark-based Willow Tree Mobile Pet Grooming salon (824-9424, willowtreemobilepetgrooming.com) makes it super-convenient to keep your pet looking great and smelling sweet.
 

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In Case of Emergency

If your dog or cat is involved in an accident or other medical emergency, you may need to administer first aid or CPR until you can get to the vet. The American Red Cross of the Delmarva Peninsula (800-777-6620, redcrossdelmarva.org) offers four-hour classes ($40) to help you prepare to handle situations such as choking, bleeding, broken bones, heat- or cold-related issues and, using a pet-size mannequin, CPR.
 

Pet Portraits

Who wouldn’t want a fine reproduction of Socks hanging above the mantel? Fine art photographer Rob Nicholson of Lewes will immortalize the face you love either in your home or at your selected location. His da Corsa Photography (743-1444, dacorsaphotography.com) accepts local commissions beginning at $300. Delaware artist Leslie Apple will paint a portrait of your pet from your photos or ones that she will take in your home. For a quote, contact Apple through her Blue Zephyr Studios Website (bluezstudios.net).
 

Little Luxuries

Give your dog a Day of Beauty ($35 to $40), including a soothing massage from a certified therapist and a blueberry vanilla facial at Muddy Paws Pet Salon in Wilmington (477-6995, muddypawspetsalon.com). Muddy Paws also accommodates special-needs and elderly dogs. P.U.P.S. of Lewes (645-9010, pupsoflewes.com) carries a selection of 100 percent natural goodies, including Waggiolis—pizza-flavored ravioli shaped like bones and stuffed with Italian cheeses—and yummies flavored like Philly cheesesteaks and catnip cigars.

A Swarovski crystal collar (starting at $65) and gem-studded tiara ($25) from Critter Beach in Rehoboth Beach (226-2690, critterbeach.com) would make glamorous gifts for your furry fashionista. Practical pooches would probably appreciate a sun-shielding visor ($14.95), also available at Critter Beach. Give Spot a chance to show his team spirit with a Delaware Blue Hens Dog Treat Bag full of snacks in school colors ($6.95) from the University of Delaware Bookstore (udel.bncollege.com). K&K Parrots of Wilmington (593-0999 kandkparrots.com) provides a nutritious, quick- and easy-to-make, veggie-packed birdie bread recipe at concordpetfoods.com.

Local jewelry designer Andrea Levine may be better known for designing charms of animals, but she has also launched a line of haute dog collars in mock crock, python and other exotic faux materials, as well as doggie T-shirts and polos. Check them out at andrealevinedesigns.com. Locally owned whiskazzandpawzz.com offers great collars, as well as toys and treats, but the big find is luxury bedding by Jax and Bones, which comes in all-natural wide-wale corduroy and other eco-friendly coverings.
 

Pamper Yourself

You love your pet, but, let’s face it, cleaning up after it is not a chore to cherish. Give yourself a break. Let Delaware Pooper Scoopers of Wilmington (322-4522, delawarepooperscoopers.com) do the dirty work for you ($12.50 weekly for one dog, $35 to $75 for one-time visit).