As vacation plans are made, the inevitable question comes up--who will look after the family pet or pets that are left behind. That question has changed many a caring pet person's anticipation to anxiety.
As one Encinitas woman puts it: "If I had my way, I'd never leave my dogs and cats, but I can't very well tell my husband I won't go on a cruise because of the pets."
Actually, North County residents have a surprising number of options for their pets, ranging from traditional and not-so-traditional boarding kennels to 24-hour, in-home care.
Trends in the boarding kennel business in North County mirror changes occurring across the country. The public has become much more sophisticated in its demands, according to Jim Krack, executive director of the American Boarding Kennels Assn.
"Historically, the kennel business has been a sort of accidental business," says Krack. "Now, with financing and other problems, this has become a business which takes a full-time commitment and total dedication."
For two reasons, noise abatement and the ability to control indoor climate, one trend is toward completely enclosed boarding facilities. Krack says he knows of no new kennels being built on the traditional model of indoor-outdoor or outdoor runs.
The traditional kennel boards dogs and maybe a few cats in cages, while the newer facilities will care for just about anything from exotic birds to tiny hamsters. Some have also experimented with building materials other than the standard chain-link and cement.
Because North County retains pockets of rural life amid booming development, pet owners have a choice between the more traditional and trend-setting facilities.
At Buckwood Boarding Kennel, on 14-plus acres in Ramona, indoor-outdoor kennels are available for cats and dogs. Owner Susan Buck says that occasionally she also cares for horses and other livestock.
Elenbusch Kennels in Vista has been in operation for 20 years and boards dogs in runs that are half covered. During the morning feeding and cleaning time, each dog has a chance to get out of its kennel and run around, says owner Mary Karat.
Sharon Campbell is starting her 21st year in business at the Ce Ce Belle Pet Hotel in Vista. Campbell breeds and shows poodles and originally built the kennels for her own dogs.
At Ce Ce Belle, there are two buildings for dogs, which are allowed to run freely in a fenced area while their kennel is cleaned. Feline boarders reside in a small cattery, away from the dogs.
Also in Vista is Margale Kennels, owned by Ida Williams. The dog kennels are indoor-outdoor enclosures with 10-foot runs. Cats are housed at the end of the building.
Pennie Zawacki's Royal Serchek Kennels in Poway boards dogs and cats and also prepares animals for shipment. Each cat has a shelf in its cage, and dogs can be walked for an extra $2 charge.
Another trend in the kennel business is to provide services other than boarding. Both the San Marcos Training and Boarding Kennel and the Oceanside Pet Hotel and Training Kennels offer training programs.
"We will board just about anything, including birds, rats, hamsters, turtles and guinea pigs, and we have cages for most," says Chris Applegate in San Marcos. "We also offer basic obedience training for family dogs, either while they're boarded or in group classes at a nearby park."
Oceanside has a full-range dog-training program from "puppy preschool" to police work, and licensed trainers also give advice on behavior problems.
"All dogs, from Chihuahuas to great Danes, have inside-outside runs," says Oceanside manager Manuel Villanueva. "We bring the dogs inside at night, and we also make that decision for them if it's cold or rainy during the day."
Besides obedience classes, The Animal Keeper, in both Encinitas and Oceanside, provides pet supplies, such as food and flea products, and grooming services.
The move toward enclosed facilities, says Liz Palika, training director for Animal Keeper in Oceanside, is in part because it is easier to control fleas and flies, temperature and humidity, and the spread of disease.
The Encinitas Animal Keeper was built 11 years ago. The newer Oceanside facility is larger and features a number of improvements. Each has concrete yards, where dogs can play while their kennels are cleaned, as well as grassy, fenced-in exercise areas. Each boards other domestic pets as well as canines and felines.
At the Animal Keeper's cattery in Encinitas, high windows allow light into the room. In Oceanside, the design was changed: two walls were built entirely of glass block, and a few larger suites were added.
Some kennels, like the Animal Care Center in San Diego and Escondido, provide veterinary services. Both facilities cater to animals with special needs, such as convalescing pets, and have separate areas for geriatric animals, puppies and noisy and quiet dogs.