It’s a dog’s life for pampered pets |

It’s a dog’s life for pampered pets

Post Independent/Kelley Cox Love of her Golden Retriever Hunter is more than just a pet project for Michelle James of New Castle. She and Hunter are frequent visitor to Two Rivers Park in Glenwood, where James spends her lunch hour with her dog every day.

There’s an aging golden retriever in the valley with a dye job to die for.And that’s just a sampling of the lengths some pet owners go to when pampering their babies – yes, “babies.”Today, Fido stays dry with a water-shedding raincoat, and warm with a faux mink wrap. Whitening formula shampoo from John Paul Pet (of the Paul Mitchell line of human hair products) keeps Fluffy’s coat “sparkling clean and shiny.” Aromatherapy and meditation calms the nerves.Adverse-weather apparel, salon-quality shampoo and spa treatments aren’t the only in-demand luxuries for pets these days.”I do mohawks on poodles, and one guy wanted a mohawk on his cat,” said Lynhaar Rodriguez, a groomer for the Four Paw Spa in Carbondale. “There was an older retriever, the owner wanted me to dye its hair to take away the gray. The color was a light golden brown.”Hard to believe, isn’t it?In its 2005-2006 National Pet Owners Survey, the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association reports that 63 percent of U.S. households own a pet. That translates to 69.1 million homes, 45 percent of which own more than one pet.”It’s amazing how this industry is growing,” said Nancy Williams, owner of The Shaggy Dog grooming and doggie day-care center in Glenwood Springs and a regular foster mom for the Colorado Animal Rescue. “We have hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of dogs and cats come in. I would say about 50 percent of our customers are multi-pet owners. It’s like the potato chip theory – you can’t have just one.”

The APPMA survey also estimates that Americans spent nearly $36 billion on their pets in 2005. More than $14 million was spent on food alone, while $2.4 billion of the expenditures were on grooming and boarding.Pets never had it so good.”Most regulars (come in) every two weeks,” said Rodriguez, of her grooming customers at Four Paw Spa.Although dog and cat grooming is most popular in the spring and summer months, holidays throughout the year can be big business, Rodriguez said. “We had green bandannas for St. Patrick’s Day,” she said.A veterinary technician originally from Puerto Rico, Rodriguez not only helps pets look good, but she’s also in the business of making them feel better.

Getting better sometimes means using an ancient treatment that makes a good point.”I also work in the clinic where we do acupuncture,” said Rodriguez, a vet tech at the Red Hill Animal Health Center. “It’s starting to be popular with older dogs, and you see a lot in improvement.”Rodriguez said holistic therapy helped an older Doberman pincher who came into the office for acupuncture treatment and left acting like a puppy. And it helped a nearly terminally ill cat.”Acupuncture helps with a lot of types of pain. People are more aware now that the pet does not have to suffer,” Rodriguez said. “One cat had skin problems, and they were going to put him to sleep. Acupuncture was a last resort and it really helped.”Herbal supplements such as glucosamine and Vitamin C are popular prescriptions for aging pets with arthritis and skin conditions, said Rodriguez. Also, organic foods made with hormone-free, vegetarian-fed chickens and natural diets are putting the kibosh on plain-old kibble.”There are many people who like to do the raw diets for their pets – the raw meat with bones, and lots of vegetables,” Rodriguez said. “It’s more natural, like in the wild, although it’s not for every pet.”

Not only are grooming tendencies and diets improving, but the amount of time spent entertaining pets has increased. If they’re not out for at least three or more walks a day, dogs can be spotted buckled in seat belts in cars. Or, pets hang out at day care while mom and dad are at work, checking in online.Who needs opposable thumbs when some pets can keep in touch with a click of the paw – or the claw.”For our VIP package, we send owners e-mails from the dog’s and cat’s point of view,” said Jerimie Richardson, who works at the Little Tail Pet Resort in Carbondale. “We have maybe one of those a week. I think back in the day, you wouldn’t get a letter home from camp from your dog.”Richardson said he has seen many customers go all out for their pets’ comfort.”Sometimes they go nuts. One lady had not only what we should do, but why we should do it – typed out on bonded paper,” he said. “I’ve seen monogrammed beds but when you consider dogs can’t read, that seems a bit much.”Michelle James, a realtor for Vicki Lee Green Realtors, may have three dog beds for her 9-month-old golden retriever at home, but she doesn’t opt for doggie day care. Instead, she brings Hunter along to work at her Glenwood Springs office.”I want him around people a lot,” said James, who takes Hunter on river walks and strolls through the park every day on her lunch hour. “I think he brings a family-home feeling to the office. Plus, he just brings us a lot of joy and unconditional love.”Hunter, whose middle name is Zane, after his family-dog predecessor who died two years ago, is almost like a brother to her daughter, said James.

“He plays basketball with her,” she said. “He uses his hands and he plays basketball. And his favorite things are to play tether ball and get the paper. He actually plays sports and he gets the newspaper every morning.”James said she doesn’t think twice about treating her dogs like members of the family.”Zane was 10 years old when he died and he was just the love of our life,” she said. “You take such good care of them and they bring so much happiness to you.”Cindie Ryan, code enforcement and animal control officer for Glenwood Springs, has observed James and Hunter while patrolling Two Rivers Park. She gives James credit for being a responsible – and caring – pet owner.”If I were to die and be reincarnated,” Ryan said. “I’d want to be her dog.”Contact April E. Clark: 945-8515, ext.

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