Unless your pet knows how to operate a can opener, flush the toilet, and work the microwave, it’s probably not a great idea to leave dogs and cats at home by themselves when you go on vacation.
Of course, for years people have boarded their critters with their veterinarian, or hired “pet sitters” to come to their home. In recent years, however, local pet owners have discovered an alternative — a home away from home for Rover and Sheba that offers a safe, secure, and comfortable environment for a day, a week, or even longer.
Welcome to the world of pet resorts.
“The whole point here is to simulate a home environment,” says Chip Brown, owner of BrownDog Lodge. “It makes the dogs comfortable so they are not stressed out during their stay here.”
Located in a pair of buildings near Poplar and Mendenhall, BrownDog offers 30 suites. No mesh cages here. Each is a private room with a full-length glass door, raised bed, raised food and water bowl, flat-screen TV mounted in a corner, and a web camera.
What do the dogs watch on those TVs? “Oh, right now it might be a golf game,” says Brown, laughing. “The whole point is just to mirror their home environment. They’re used to hearing a television at home, so they have the same experience here. And it works. During the day the dogs can be as wild and rambunctious as they want, but at night, it’s quiet and peaceful — all you hear are the TV shows.”
The web cameras allow pet owners to check their pets online while the dogs are in their rooms or in the communal play area. “The cameras really give the owners peace of mind,” says Brown. “They can look in on their pets and see them sleeping or playing or eating.”
If they wish, owners can bring their dogs’ toys, treats, bedding, and even the food they are used to eating — again, to give the animals a sense that they are at home.
"The whole point is just to mirror their home environment. They're used to hearing a television at home, so they have the same experience here. And it works. During the day dogs can be as wild and rambunctious as they want, but at night, it's quiet and peaceful — all you hear are the TV shows." — Chip Brown, owner of BrownDog Lodge
Rates start at $35 nightly, which includes daily walks and exercise, webcams, food and daily treats, and personalized attention. Special package rates are available. While they’re at BrownDog, pets can also enjoy other services, including teeth brushing, baths, grooming, and even massages. There’s also a pickup and delivery shuttle service, to make it easier for families who work, or need to get their kids to school in the morning.
In Collierville, the newly opened Claridge Pet Resort looks like a Yellowstone Park lodge from the outside. Inside, it’s much like BrownDog, with rows of private suites for the dogs (many with windows), fenced-in outdoor runs, gravel areas where the dogs can “do their business,” complete grooming facilities, and something you won’t find at most of the other resorts — a special area just for cats. Located just off the lobby, the cat area offers futuristic-looking “Klassy Kat Condos” for up to 20 felines. The kitties may not have the full-size private suites like the dogs, but dozing in the window or purring in their beds, they don’t seem to mind.
“Everyone here really loves animals,” says manager Rhesa Cox. “We give them one-on-one attention, and at the end of their stay, we even give each pet a report card, so the owners can see how well they were treated and how much they enjoyed it here.”
The Claridge offers “all the accommodations you would expect from a five-star resort,” but it actually goes beyond that. As far as we know, even The Peabody doesn’t provide a special tuck-in service, which includes “a calming bedtime session, with one-on-one attention and a bedtime story.”