News & Politics

A Suite Life

With cozy beds, gourmet meals, and flat-screen TVs, some kennels provide pets with more comforts than they get at home

As 13-year-old Max wakes up, he stretches and slides off the duvet atop his bed at Mountain Run Kennel in Culpeper. The 50-pound Lab-chow mix touches down on the braided rug, looks out the double window at the rolling countryside, glances at Animal Planet on the flat-screen television, and pads across the heated floor. Next up? A 20-minute stroll to the pond, followed by a meal of steamed shredded chicken, warm broth, and cooked rice prepared in the airy kitchen.

“I’d like to stay there,” says Max’s owner, Andrea Vural, with a smile.

When it comes to caring for their pets, it seems most Washingtonians aren’t cutting back. “People hate to think of their dogs locked up in chainlink cages,” says Kelvin Abrams, owner of Tiki’s Playhouse in Glenelg, Maryland, about 45 minutes from DC. Tiki’s has two “cageless boarding” rooms strewn with dog beds, where pets can have sleepovers: “People want the warm and fuzzy feeling of bringing their dog to someone’s home.”

Along with traditional runs, more kennels are now offering a range of accommodations—from sizable suites equipped with televisions and Webcams to communal sleeping rooms, where a dozen or so dogs can crash together on sofas and mattresses.

Mountain Run, on 35 acres in the Virginia Piedmont, is one of the first to add private suites connected to covered outdoor runs. The 10-by-12 kennel runs—each suite has its own—have doggie doors so canines can come and go as they please.

“At his age, Max needs to get outside for more than just his daily walks,” says Vural, who lives in Reston.

At some kennels, a suite is simply a room in a high-rise building—a window is often extra. The 12-by-12 suites at Mountain Run, which opened in November, are like small bedrooms.

“We concentrate on reducing stress,” says owner Jane Kelso, a former trainer of field-trial retrievers. She has been in the kennel business for nearly three decades.

Daily suite rates at area kennels range from $35 to $120 a night per pet, with discounts for additional guests. “By sharing a room, it becomes economically attractive for people who want their family’s dogs to be together,” Kelso says. Mountain Run’s suites are $85 a night, $40 for a second dog. One client brings his two golden-retriever mixes and a Quaker parrot, which share a suite.

Cats have their hideaways, too. The “cat-o-miniums” at Seneca Hill Animal Hospital Resort & Spa in Great Falls have living rooms, easy chairs, and scratching posts. At the Olde Towne Pet Resort in Springfield, felines have their own wing where rooms have views of the woods.

Pets can get pampered. Some kennels, including Mountain Run, Olde Towne Pet Resort, and Seneca Hill, offer spa treatments—from pedicures and aromatherapy baths to a 30-minute massage with a trained canine masseur. Seneca Hill also offers stress reduction and relaxation with reiki; dogs can work out in the heated lap pool at the Olde Towne Pet Resort.

While Andrea Vural isn’t likely to spend the night at Mountain Run, there’s a good chance Max will be back. “Because of his need for daily shots, we didn’t board him for years,” Vural says. She and her husband used to take separate vacations with their daughter so one of them could be home with the dog.

“When we picked him up after nine nights, he looked so good, my husband turned to me and said, ‘Okay, when are we going away again?’ ”

For a list of area kennels offering luxury suites and cageless boarding, click here.

This article first appeared in the April 2009 issue of The Washingtonian.