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“I really need some time away,” says Melissa Northrup, “but I hate leaving my cocker spaniel, Lily, at home when I go on vacation. I worry about her so much when I’m away. I know there are lots of pet- friendly hotels now, but I don’t like the idea of leaving her in a strange hotel room.”

What’s a pet parent to do?

Glen Highland Farm to the rescue! How does a private, countryside vacation camp sound–for you and your dog! That’s how the Morris, NY camp advertises a dog and dog lover’s dream vacation. The Farm provides a “remarkable vacation where you and your dog can enjoy lush trails, wandering through huge flowering meadows, passing towering trees in the Hemlock Forest, or resting creek-side as water rushes over fallen logs.” Wow!

Or, how about Camp Unleashed? A sleep- away camp for dogs and their people offering a 4-day, 3-night retreat in the country with lots of doggie friends and loads of outdoor activities, like swimming, hiking, fly ball and water sports. They’ll even brush up your pet’s obedience skills.

The Internet and publications such as this one are blanketed with hundreds of new-fangled and unique pet services of every type. What’s causing this sudden and dramatic increase in services for pets?

According to Mary Ellen Walsh, owner of The Grateful Dog in Newtown, CT, www.thegratefuldogllc.com, a trainer and canine behaviorist with over 25 years’ experience, “In the last ten years people have become much more in tune with their dogs. I can see the difference in the way people see their pets. Pets are now considered members of the family,” states Walsh, “and people are much more willing to spend the money and time necessary to build a better relationship with their dogs.”

That sure makes sense.

In fact, millions of dollars are spent each year by families on their pet’s needs, and the amount increases each year as people get more involved in their relationship with their pet. As a result, more specific types of pet services emerge for every type of household and family situation.

Muriel Reed is 78 years old. She doesn’t own a car and has no family members close by. Although she’s pretty much self-sufficient, caring for her best friend and live-in companion, a 14 year old, 30 lb. mixed- breed, Mookie, has become a bit of a daunting task.

“Northeast winters can be brutal. I have a difficult time navigating through the snow to walk Mookie. This recent winter hasn’t been too bad,” Reed continues, “But I worry that we’ll still get some cold weather and ice before the real spring weather gets here. Mookie needs exercise and loves his walks.” Fortunately, she has a small fenced- in yard and can let Mookie out when the weather is really bad and she can’t get out. She can no longer lift and bathe Mookie by herself and worries that as he gets older, Mookie will have a health emergency and that she won’t be able to get him to the vet.

Like many seniors living alone, Reed, a retired school teacher, uses a computer to access the world. Refusing to give up her best friend, she used among other things, the Internet to search for in-home pet services to help her take care of Mookie. As she started to look about considering her options what she found amazed her. Reed was able to locate just about everything she could possibly need for Mookie’s care–in her home. “I just couldn’t believe there were so many companies with services that are perfect for my situation. And many of them offered senior discounts.” Reed happily stated, “A boon to us folks living on a fixed income.”

These unique services are helping to drive the growth in pet ownership. With this dramatic increase in pet services, especially in-home services, many more working families are able to adopt and care for pets. “If it wasn’t for my dog walker who comes every day to walk, feed and exercise my two Shelties, I couldn’t have adopted them.” states, Jackie, a Fairfield resident “I completely depend on Emily to care for my babies Monday through Friday during the day when I’m at work.”

Dog walking and pet sitting services have been around for a while, but many of these businesses have seen to add new services to meet the news customer’s current demands.

According to Emily Blanckschen, owner of Always Safe at Home Pet Sitting, in Newtown, “In the last few years I’ve seen a totally different relationship building with people and their pets.

Families spend a lot more time with their pets–great for the pets, not so good for the pet sitting business. But, she says, “to balance it out, there has been a tremendous increase in the midday dog walking part of my business now that people are much more understanding of a pet’s needs. Owners understand that a dog should not be locked in a crate for eight hours a day. I’ve actually had people call me before they even adopt a pet just to make sure my services will be available–especially if they work. People are taking a responsible relationship with their pet a lot more seriously than they did even just a few years ago.”

And, at her customer’s requests, she now offers now offers transport to and from the vet, groomer and even kennels and day care facilities.

Sally MacKinnon of Sally MacKinnon’s House and Pet Sitting Service has also seen the increase in requests for new and different services. Recently she, too, has added transport services to vets, groomers and the like, and most recently she began including excursions to local dog parks–as she says, “for appropriate pets.”

The last few years has also seen updated versions of some common pet services.

“All we need is a place to park.” The mantra of “The Fairy Dogmother”, a mobile grooming service also out of Newtown, Their specially equipped van pulls up to your house–and, bathes, trims and dries your dog, right in your driveway. The service has been so successful, the company recently added a second mobile unit and is still completely booked. With the addition of another groomer in late spring, they hope to have additional openings for their endless stream of customers.

Love bathing your dog, but hate the mess it leaves behind? Pawz For Wellness in Shelton is yet another version of the old, standard grooming business. With this company you can bathe your dog yourself–at their facility. They offer professional grade supplies, a tub, and towels at a fraction of the cost of professional groomers. Just come prepared to get wet! In lower Fairfield County, Dog Gone Smart also has this bathing option available.

Vet services have also changed and expanded. Along with 24-hour veterinary emergency clinics scattered around the tri-state area, you can now choose from several referral hospitals that offer veterinary specialists, everything from ophthalmology to oncology.

The list of medical services/specialities seem to grow every day and have helped to improve the health of Fairfield’s pet population.

And for many, mobile is the new “name of the game” for vets.

Driving his specially outfitted truck, Dr. Richard Goldstein is part of a new breed of vets making house calls. Dr. Goldstein owns and operates “Mobile Vet Squad,” a fully-equipped animal hospital on wheels.

“Over my 20-plus years of practicing, I’ve seen how a trip in the car can be very stressful for many pets,” he shares. “It can be equally stressful for pet owners, who have to find time during their busy day, pack up their pet, maybe pack up the kids, and make the trip to the vet.”

Trumbull vet, Dr. Kathleen Fearon, joined the mobile vet bandwagon and opened her, “Home Vet Services,” in 2003 when she saw the need for an alternative to a static vet’s office, especially for pets who gets stressed out at a vet’s office.

Even boarding kennels, one of the oldest of the pet-centered businesses, have added additional services and amenities to meet the needs of today’s pet families. Gone are the days when your dog spends the duration of your vacation inside a small, cold cement dog run.

Camp Bow Wow is state of the art in boarding care right in Stamford, CT. And not satisfied just to board your pets they’ve expanded by offering in-home pet sitting, walking and pet waste removal services!

Over at Almost Home Kennels in Putnam Valley, NY, they offer customer pick-up and delivery throughout the greater New York Metropolitan Area. Rated by the Wall Street Journal as one the top six luxury kennels in the United States, their runs have radiant heat with spacious, spa-like accommodations.

And owner Joy Brewster has added so many new services to her boarding facility, she changed the name from Cassio Kennels to Cassio Pet Resort and Training Center. The resort now boasts a spring-fed pond with a dock for jumping and retrieving activities, a complete training center, massage therapy and day boarding for customers who work during the day and pick up their dogs at the end of each day.

And who among us haven’t had the unfortunate experience of having your pet take-off and disappear? You know first hand how nerve-racking it can be to figure out the best thing to do to find your pet. Until recently, the best thing you could do was to start making calls to every vet and shelter and plaster posters on every telephone pole in the neighborhood.

Today, many pets are micro chipped and registered with companies like “Home Again”. The company keeps your pet’s micro chip number, name, address and phone number on file. When your pet is located and ends up at a vet’s office or shelter with a chip scanner (most facilities have scanners) the company contacts you with your pet’s location. Home again!

Going one step further (or, in addition to) you can hire a professional pet detective such Pet Hunters International. With offices across the country, will for a fee, make all the calls, do all the poster hanging, place the ads, interview neighbors and do all the legwork, going way beyond just the local neighborhood.

Because pets are now such a huge part of a family’s life, we all face the reality that, in most cases, we outlive our pets–a trade-off for the unconditional love and devotion we receive from them on a daily basis. So the most difficult decision for a pet’s family is deciding if, when and how to let a terminally ill pet go.

Until now, our only choice was to bring our beloved to the vet’s office, our pet passing surrounded by a group of strangers.

But, times have changed for the better. “Journey’s End,” a service started by two veterinarians, Dr. David Chen and Dr. Adam Krawczyk, provides in-home euthanasia services 24-hours-a-day. According to the doctors, “Euthanasia is a very personal experience and these last few moments should be in a private, comfortable and stress-free home environment. Our goal is to provide peace of mind to the family and make the experience as peaceful as possible.” The doctors are planning to expand their very personal and compassionate care to in-home hospice care for pets in the last stages of life. The service will include visiting the pet’s home to monitor pain medication, diet, medical necessities and support for the family in this saddest of times. This is a growing business with more options to choose from every day.

Not ready to give up your departed best friend?

Check out “Bringing Them Back”. A service started by Fairfield resident, Linda Keenan. Keenan will assist you in finding the departed spirit of your beloved pet in a new body! She believes that your pet’s spirit returns in the body of another pet. And, although she believes that we all have the ability to locate the right pet when the time comes, she offers pet counseling for a nominal fee. Tarot card readings for your pet? She does that too.

Or perhaps you just want to bring back exactly the same pet. As seen on the TLC program. “I Clone my Pet”, for a mere $50,000 to $150,000, California businessman Peter Onruang will act as agent and link you to Dr. Shin, in South Korea. Dr.Shin claims to deliver a clone of your departed pet.

The coming years will certainly bring more and more services to choose from but, with our pets such a huge part of our lives, it’s unlikely that we’ll ever reach a point where we’ll have to ask, “Did anyone remember to feed and walk the robot?”

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