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Pampered pets and pet survivors

By AL SWANSON   |   Nov. 14, 2010 at 5:30 AM   |   Comments

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In his memoirs, former President George W. Bush tells a story about going from the pampering of the White House to picking up his dog Barney's poop days later.

Bush, 10 days after leaving office, was walking his Scottie when Barney relieved himself on a neighbor's lawn.

"There I was," Bush wrote, "the former president of the United States, with a plastic bag on my hand, picking up that which I had been dodging for the past eight years."

Barney, of course, continues to be pampered.

Despite the lingering recession hangover, with slow economic and job growth, people are still willing to spend on their pets -- those who can afford it, that is.

Americans are not the only ones who spoil pets. A check of the Yellow Pages in the area around Bundaberg in Queensland in northeast Australia, shows 60 businesses offering pet services compared to 24 offering services for men.

"For a lot of people who send their cats here, their cats are like children, so they will get pampered," Sharon Bradley, owner of Avoca Boarding Cattery told the Bundaberg News Mail.

The sight of celebrity-socialite Paris Hilton shopping with her latest pampered puppy stowed in a designer handbag may make some people retch. But for many the only difference is the amount of money she has to spend. Hilton, who was sentenced to a year's probation after her arrest for cocaine possession in Las Vegas in September, reportedly has admitted to owning as many as 18 pets from dogs and rabbits to a parrot and a pig.

She seems to enjoy indulging Chihuahuas while other celebrities are into trendy designer breeds like puggles (half poodle-half beagle), poochons (poodle and bishon) and maltipoo (maltese and poodle).

Spafinder lists the Lake Austin Spa Resort in Texas as the place to pamper your dog. House-trained dogs are always welcome but in February the 19-acre resort will offer a special four-day retreat for dogs and their owners. Both humans and animals can get pampering from massages to "peticures" while owners also learn tips about pet care, petside.com said.

The fees from "Celebrating Paws" will go to the Animal Trustees of Austin, a non-profit devoted to providing low-cost animal healthcare.

As shelters fill up it's one way -- other than writing a check -- for owners of pampered pets to help pets of those who are having trouble affording them.

Shelters are reaching capacity as people who have lost jobs or homes give up their cats and dogs, Pam Burney, vice president for community initiatives at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, told USA Today.

In the pet-friendly city of Portland, Ore., pet owners can check their canines into the luxury of the Sniff Dog Hotel, a pet hotel that offers grooming, training and doggie daycare as well as posh accommodations starting at $37 per day, care2.com said. The property has a cafe serving wine, beer and food to dog owners watching Fido romp in an indoor park.

Caesars Palace, Imperial Palace and the Rio, all Harrah's hotel-casino properties in Las Vegas, accept dogs weighing less than 50 pounds, up to two per room under their "PetStay" program, the Los Angeles Times reports. An extra fee of $20 to $25 per night covers amenities including dog food, water bowls and doggie treats. Dogs must be crated when left alone in the room. Sorry, no cats are allowed.

And there's always a luxury staycation.

"A back yard is no place for a dog. It's not their natural environment," Robert Holmes, an Australian animal behavior expert, told the Brisbane Herald Sun. "They should be in bed with their owners. That's where the pack lies and they should all pile in together."

My two very energetic terriers are a little too gamey for that sort of togetherness and we don't plan to have them groomed until Thanksgiving.

Barkley seems to prefer sleeping on the floor in our bedroom to his expensive dog bed, anyway.

Carl Steidtmann, chief economist at Deloitte, says many consumers appear ready to spend again with sales of both organic pet food and bargain pet food rising.

"People are cutting back on themselves more than they're cutting back on pets." Bob Vetere, president of the American Pet Products Association told USA Today.

If you think pampering a pet is crazy, consider this: a poll conducted by Unbiased.co.uk found nearly 1.5 million people plan to leave their assets to their pets in their wills, while only 1 million said their money would go to a church when they die.

© 2010 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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