Pet paradise

Published 6:53 pm Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Jack the Pekingese, known as Bossman around the Bennett’s Creek Home Away from Home boarding and pet daycare facility, takes a break from the stress of running the place. From his perch on a bed in one of the VIP suites, he can watch flat-screen TV, and his owner can watch him via webcam.

Playtime, treats and lots of friends — daycare can have its benefits

When he’s at home, he’s called Jack, but at Bennett’s Creek Home Away from Home, he’s the Bossman — and he means business.

He waltzes into the building every morning like he owns the place, with his head held high and his tail at attention. Step aside — I’m here for daycare.

Even as he trots past the staff members who tower over him, he never falters — he knows he’s the boss.

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When he reaches the daycare room, he gives an affirmative bark so his loyal subjects know he’s ready to enter and greet the general public.

In the real world, a Pekingese might be a shrimp of a dog, but in here, he’s the king.

“He definitely thinks he rules,” said Abby Richardson, a member of the kennel team. “And they listen to him.”

Jack is one of the many dogs, and even a few cats, in Suffolk that spend time in daycare when their owners are at work or out of town.

Along Bridge Road, two centers — Bennett’s Creek Home Away from Home and Dogwood Run — cater to furry friends looking for a place to stay and play when Mom and Dad are away.

Pets make these places their palaces, whether they are getting the VIP treatment in their own luxury suite or getting personal swim lessons in their own pool.

Bennett’s Creek manager Ellisse Parker said owners really appreciate having a place where they know their favorite four-legged pals will be given all the love and attention they get when they are home.

She added she hopes all the dogs get comfortable in their second homes the way Jack has, because it makes the time their owners are away much more pleasant.

While both places offer caretaking options, many of the thousands of dogs that file in and out of their doors every year come for the day to get tuckered out, so they won’t overwhelm Mom and Dad when they come home from work dog-tired.

“It’s a great way, just like for a child, to be able to provide a place where they are going to be supervised and where they can be socialized,” Parker said.

Of the 30 or so dogs attending daycare at Dogwood Run on any given day, there’s one furry face that has been part of Dogwood’s lineup since she was a puppy.

Sophie, a black Russian terrier, was about a quarter of the massive size she is today when she started attending daycare.

Sophie first came for the pool she could jump into when Virginia’s summers got a little too hot for her thick black fur coat. But her owners keep bringing her back, because all her friends are at Dogwood.

“Every dog that comes here makes a friend,” said Bonnie Billue, one of Dogwood’s owners.

To promote friendships between the dogs, the pooches at Dogwood are given free range of one of five different yards that include a plethora of toys, pools for them to splash around and an attentive staff ready to play fetch.

Friendships also form every day in the daycare rooms at Bennett’s Creek. And sometimes those friends seem the most unlikely pairings.

Parker said she never tries to guess which dogs are going to become close, because they always surprise her. The tiniest Chihuahua can make a fast friend of a giant Great Dane just as easily as two Labradoodles would pair off. And once those bonds are formed, it’s tough to break them.

“They can’t wait to come the next day and play with the same group of dogs,” she said.

While many pups just spend the day at this play palace, they always have the option to stick around for the night.

Dogwood Run doesn’t offer overnight kennels while owners are away. Instead, the facility offers an alternative that keeps dogs socialized and exercised but still gives them the comfort of home.

Billue personally chauffeurs the pups that need babysitting everyday from home to Dogwood Run and back again just in time for supper.

“They just come out there to have a good time and swim and play and go home very tired,” Billue said.

They can run all day with their friends, but when the sun goes down, the tired canines are taken home, where Billue prepares them dinner before they drift off to sleep.

Because there’s no place like home.

Some dogs, however, demand even more special treatment. If your dog prefers to take a vacation of its own while you are away, Bennett’s Creek offers VIP suites for its pups.

The suites feature raised beds, special glass doors in place of the usual bars, flat-screen televisions playing “doggie-appropriate” content and perks like being let outside before the rest of the daycare doggies.

But the thing that really pushes owners to get the suites is 24-hour access to webcams, so they can watch their precious pups from miles away.

“You can look at your dog in real time any time of day,” Parker said.

The access definitely came in handy for Ginger, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, who came to stay while her mom was out of town.

Ginger was quite content being away from home, as long as she had her sidekick — a stuffed hedgehog toy — by her side.

“She would carry this hedgehog in her mouth the all the time,” Parker said. “She was a doll-baby, and she just cracked us up.”

Ginger enjoyed her VIP accommodations just fine, but the raised bed was a problem for her prickly friend.

Every once in a while, in the midst of playing, Ginger would lose her grip on the hedgehog, and it would roll under the bed, sending her into a panic.

Parker said the owner, watching via webcam, would call anytime the toy was out of Ginger’s reach, and one of the employees would swoop in to rescue the trapped hedgehog.

“It is those webcams that is the number one feature,” Parker said. “It just seems to ease some kind of anxiety. Clients adore that.”

Whether they are getting the VIP treatment at Bennett’s Creek or enjoying the dog’s life at Dogwood Run, there is one philosophy that binds the two doggie dwellings — a tired dog is a happy dog.

And whether they’re watching via webcam or meeting their dogs at home at the end of a long day, Suffolk pet owners want happy dogs.