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A Woof Over Their Heads

Finding the right accommodations for Rover when you leave on vacation can be more difficult than finding the right hotel.


You have cared for his every need since Rover was a puppy. He has always been well-fed and received plenty of attention. In return, you have a companion who is always willing to go for a walk or curl up beside you and listen to your troubles.

That is why it's so hard to leave him when you go on vacation.

Finding the right kennel can be more difficult than finding the right hotel. If the hotel doesn't deliver what was promised, you can leave and look for better accommodations. Rover just has to lie there and take it.

Kennels seem to fill up fast. Some are booked full more than a month in advance, especially on holidays. So, as soon as you know you will need a kennel, find a suitable one and make reservations.

Calling your veterinarian for kennel recommendations is a good start, said Joan Parker, an employee at Balcom Canyon Pet Lodge in Somis.

Also, find out from your veterinarian what immunizations your dog should have before going to a kennel and then make sure the kennel you choose insists that all its borders have them. Distemper, parvo, rabies, bordetella, corona and lime immunizations are some of those options.

Once you have referrals, visit the kennels before you make a reservation.

"Look for cleanliness and friendly people," said Jane Newman, owner of Jane's Pet Motel and Spa in Oxnard.

Parker suggested that pet owners "look and see how clean it is, how happy the dogs look and meet the people who will be caring for your pet and make sure they are friendly."


The kennels should allow you to drop by any time, not just with an appointment, said Chris Levine, manager of Westlake Pet Motel in Westlake Village.

Referrals from friends who have had a good experience boarding their dogs are also a plus.

Balcom Kennel is open Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., with no pickups or drop-offs on Saturdays, Sundays or holidays. The kennel is on four acres and can hold up to 140 dogs, Parker said. Music is played throughout the kennels with holiday tunes on special occasions.

Small, indoor dogs are kept in heated or air-conditioned buildings in 4-by-4 kennels. Most sleep on their own beds brought from home, and they are each taken out and put in individual outdoor runs for 15 minutes two or three times a day, Parker said.

The larger the dog the larger the kennel, with runs up to 6 feet by 18 feet. All dogs get to go out into the larger runs just like the small, indoor dogs, she said. No matter the size, it costs $16 a day to kennel a dog at Balcom.

Ed and Aleida Lukas, who have owned the kennel for 12 years, live on site, Parker said. The owners and an employee also live on the property at Westlake Pet Motel, Levine said.

Each dog at the enclosed, climate-controlled kennel has a 3 1/2-by-18-foot kennel that costs $16 to $25 a day, depending on the time of year. Prices go up during major holidays, Levine said.

It is open Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturdays from 8 to 11 a.m. and 5 to 6 p.m., and Sundays from 5 to 6 p.m.

The Tidbits column does not appear this week.

Whether a dog goes out into a larger run yard depends on each dog and its needs, Levine said.

Jane's Pet Motel and Spa also bases trips to the outside exercise yard on the needs of the dog, Newman said.

Individual patio-style kennels range from 4-by-10 to 4-by-16 spaces and cost $10 a night. Jane's is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays. It is closed Sundays.

No one lives on the property, but there is someone there 90% of the time, Newman said.

All three kennel workers said owners can bring bedding and toys.

Some kennels offer pickup and delivery for an extra fee. At Balcom, one-way transportation is $15 and round-trip is $25. The three kennels also offer grooming options, so Rover comes home not only happy but smelling sweet.


Nancy Needham writes a weekly consumer column and can be reached at

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