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A Place Where Rover Reigns as King

August 26, 1993|BEVERLY BEYETTE

When Margaret the basset-beagle's owners went on holiday, she didn't go to a kennel. She went to a bed-and-breakfast, where she and the proprietor snuggled up in bed, watched TV and shared Ben and Jerry's Rainforest Crunch.

And Lucky, the Lhasa apso mix, knows that when master's away, he'll still get his baked potato topped with Dinty Moore beef stew every night.

Even the four-footed eccentric that must twirl five times to the right and six times to the left before flopping down to sleep gets his way. Ditto the Dalmatian that's allergic to all food but peanut butter on Wonder bread.

That's how it is at All Pets Bed and Breakfast, the hotel arm of the Dirty Dog grooming parlor near Ojai. It's for those pet owners who just "don't like the idea of a family member being locked up," explains owner Janelle Aguilar.

Mind you, she says, "There are very nice kennels and I have absolutely nothing against kennels. But these are their babies and they want to be sure they are being pampered and loved and cuddled."

For this, she calls on her network of 25 pet-sitters. "There are housewives who want to make some extra money. And retired couples love it. It's like grandparenting. They have all the fun, but when they get tired of it, they give the kids back. And they're still free to travel."

All first-timers stay at Aguilar's house so she can assess their foibles. She recalls the husky that tried to eat her couch and the "housebroken" Doberman that soaked every inch of her carpet.

When Elfie Stuber goes on vacation, Miss Sophie, her mini schnauzer, goes to the Dirty Dog. Stuber says, "When I used to bring her to the kennel, I had to drag her in on all fours. Here, she just walks right in."

Jacqueline Quackenbush also sings Aguilar's praises, even though Fritzie Quackenbush, a tiny fox terrier-Chihuahua, was Aguilar's only escapee--just pushed out a screen and headed for the hills.

"I was just a basket case, I'll tell you," Quackenbush says. "I thought the world of that dog. I got her a couple of days after my husband's death, and she is my dearest friend."

Luckily, Fritzie was wearing a collar and was picked up and held at the Humane Society.

"If there's a way for a pet to have something happen to it while its owner is away, it'll find it," Aguilar says. "This is their second job in life. You kind of have to think like an animal."

Aguilar, who has four dogs and a cat, boasts she can "spot a biter a mile off." Psychological warfare is another matter. Take Panda, a Shih Tzu who went on a hunger strike when her owner left for Europe. "It was the last act of Camille," says Aguilar.

Finally, she decided to ignore the dog and whipped up some spaghetti, making loud smacking noises. "She just thought she was going to die before she got some of that spaghetti."

Aguilar makes it clear to owners that "if they're a couple of thousand miles away and the dog turns into Cujo in the middle of the night . . ." well, it's kennel time.

The Dirty Dog has boarded potbellied pigs, cats and birds and has had queries about iguanas. The daily rate: Cats, $8. Dogs, $10-$14, depending on size. Basic meals and toys included.

When matching pet and home, Aguilar keeps in mind that some pet owners prefer a home with children, some care-givers have allergies, some dogs hate air conditioning.

And, she adds, "The older dogs and cats really like homes with water beds. It's easier on their joints."

City of Hope's Disciples

Like pilgrims trekking to a holy shrine, they come every two years to Duarte from cities and towns across America. For many, it is the first visit to this place called City of Hope.

But these are the people who make the renowned medical center tick: In the last two years, their grass-roots efforts raised $57 million.

They are the 1,200 delegates from 500 support groups who converge on Los Angeles for the biennial summer convention put on by the medical center.

They boarded buses in Beverly Hills for the 45-minute journey, excited as kids heading off to summer camp. There was Bess Plasky, a tireless 78 despite severely impaired sight. She's been twisting arms for City of Hope for 40 years. Now she has an added incentive: Her son, Jack, 44, died of complications from AIDS last summer.

When Plasky sees people her age frittering away time at playing cards, she wonders, "How can they do such a thing?" She tells how her dying son said, "Mother, you can't help me anymore." Then she straightens and says, "But I can help others."

There was Karen Thompson, 32, a first-timer from Seattle. She was standing in for her friend Marco DeSilva, president of the Seattle chapter. DeSilva, 42, was accidentally shot when he was 15 and is still being treated at City of Hope for a resulting blood disease.

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