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Pooches Lap Up the Attention at Dog Day Care

August 11, 1999|DANNY FEINGOLD

You've seen it hundreds of times before: the melancholy eyes, the drooping ears, the dragging tail. But it never fails to push the guilt button as you close the door and head off to work, leaving your best pal behind.

For those with an aching conscience and some bucks to spare, a solution to this all-too-familiar canine conundrum is now at hand, courtesy of Chateau Marmutt. Opened earlier this month by former TV producer Michelle Rivera, the facility represents the cutting edge of dog care.

"Five years ago it was the dog walker," says Rivera. "Now it's doggie day care."

Chateau Marmutt offers everything the self-actualized, upwardly mobile pooch could possibly want, from aromatherapy grooming and massage therapy to off-premises physical training. Dogs with designer tastes can enjoy an array of high-end products including organic treats, seasonally correct collars (leather for winter, fabric for summer) and imported beds from Australia.

"I'm like the dog section of Fred Segal, but you can special order from me," says Rivera, 35.

The centerpiece of Chateau Marmutt is a 3,600-foot, cage-free play area, where lonely pets can fend off separation anxiety for a few hours. Furnished with brightly colored plastic accouterments--a fire hydrant, a pool, a picnic table--the room is essentially a quadruped community center. Candidates have to be neutered, and all are carefully screened to weed out bullies.

"If there are any red flags, the dog can't come," notes Rivera. For those who pass the test but still misbehave, there's a time-out area for them to cool their paws.

On this day, the half-dozen clients display admirable social skills, with the exception of a Chihuahua mix who clings to Rivera. A customer walks out of the playroom with her golden-colored ridgeback in tow.

"She's very happy," says the woman. "She played all day. I'm in love with this place."

Indeed, Chateau Marmutt is geared as much to the emotional needs of dog owners as it is to those of their four-legged friends.

"It relieves people's minds to know their dog will be played with and exercised," explains Rivera. "You can go for dinner and not feel guilty."

With its range of deluxe services and pricey merchandise, Chateau Marmutt may strike some as California's latest example of conspicuous consumption, canine style.

"I don't think any dog lover would say that," answers Rivera. "[If you haven't] had kids yet, that kind of love you give to your kids you give to your animal."

With the pet industry exploding, Rivera expects that more than a few busy dog owners will be willing to spend good money for some surrogate love.

"It's the next best thing to having a nanny in your house for your dog."

Chateau Marmutt, 8128 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles, (323) 653-2062. Prices: $30/day or $510/month.

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