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Dogs, Cats Take on Role of Children for Today's Pet Owners

May 27th, 2003, 09:21 PM
Sampson is camped out on a couch watching some educational program on the big screen. Caesar is napping in the corner. And Grace, a newcomer to day care and still a little shy, keeps to herself.
Complete with playground toys, this rambunctious group -- around 15 strong -- resembles an episode of "Romper Room."
Only these kids race around the gymnasium-style play area on four legs, panting and barking. For more and more families today, day care is as common for Sampson (a Rottweiler), Caesar (a golden retriever) and Grace (a sleek whippet) as it is for their kids.
"Dogs are people's kids now," said Janie Thamert, a dog lover who works for All Good Dogs in Salt Lake City.
Owners have more ways today than ever to pamper their pets -- pastries, luxury suites, salons, hikes in the afternoon.
Thamert also said certain dogs even engage in kid-like antics for attention. Take Sampson for instance, a "smart" day-care regular who will occasionally watch the Animal Planet network. But each day "right before his mom comes to pick him up," he jumps on one of the couches or loungers and waits.
"Because he not allowed on the furniture at home," Thamert said.
Not much different from real kids. %%See PETS Page D4%% "There are a lot of times when a dog has been treated like a child," said Russin Carver, who is an obedience trainer and dog walker. "There's also the flip side, where people get the dog, leave it in the back yard for a year, then drop it off at the pound."
Carver doesn't run a day care, but offers full-service dog hiking.
She spends three hours trekking through the foothills with a small pack of canines. It doesn't end there. Carver also drives the carpool -- picking up and dropping off the entire group.
The 25-year-old Carver said the group size varies, but occasionally gets up to eight, including her Weimereiner, Sirius.
Pet boarding used to be simple. Now, it can seem more like a romantic weekend getaway for the family mutt. The Camelot Pet Resort in Bountiful offers theme rooms that rival the Anniversary Inn.
There's the "Storybook" room, or maybe Rover's a city mutt, looking for that dude-ranch theme in the "Western" suite.
The "resort" has been open for nearly three years and offers doggie day care, kitty townhouses, dog suites -- and if you're feeling a little crazy, there are the "VIP Suites."
Your mutt can stay in his or her choice of the Western, Storybook, Under the Sea or Royal rooms. Like the basic rooms, the VIPs suites are private rooms with glass fronts and a bed. But in the high-rent district, Rover also gets a TV and VCR.
"We play movies, usually Disney movies, for them during the day," Sims said. "If they get along with the other dogs and they're either spade or neutered, they can play with other dogs during the day in the doggie day care."
But do dogs actually like Aladdin and Snow White?
"Some dogs do, some dogs don't look at it at all -- I think it reminds them of home," Sims said. "I don't know how many actually watch the TV."
For cats, Camelot offers kitty townhouses that are 7-feet, 7-inches tall. They can house up to three cats from the same family. A townhouse also includes a private litter box and a four-post oak bed with a mattress.
"It doesn't feel like a cage to the cats with the wire and the bars on the door," Sims said. "They're not stressed and they eat well and they go home and they're relaxed."