Day care has gone to the dogs

The leash-and-collar set is entertained in comfy surroundings while owners are at work

In this age of inflated social "correctness," man's best friend has become his biggest investment.

The all-American doghouse - you know, the outdoor one where Lassie lived - has taken on certain negative overtones. A dog left to mope in the backyard is an animal that may become depressed, or so current thinking goes.

Suddenly an industry is born. Hired dog walkers are pass. Doggie day care is what every feeling owner wants. A dog owner can now pay someone else to be ... well, a dog owner.

Boston's Common Dog, for example, prides itself on giving dogs quality face-, er, muzzle-time. Los Angeles' Loved Dog Company - surrogate master to at least 20 Hollywood celebrities' dogs - deals with dogs' psychological "issues" through what owner Tamar Geller calls the "wolf value system." These companies have staffs that will exercise and socialize dogs, all day long, every day, with no bars on the windows. Presumably, what's left to the owner is a tired dog that will sleep.

In Boston, every weekday morning, the well-to-do filter down off Beacon Hill, congregating on a corner of Boston Garden to put their little ones on the doggie day-care bus.

There's the mortgage broker with shy little Bentley, a black cocker spaniel, and the attorney with wiggly, nosy Rockwell, whose beagle twin, Pebbles, ignores him.

The Common Dog bus arrives, and the scene defines tailspin. At $25 each per day - or about what human day care costs - the furry ones scramble up into their assigned seats (Bentley's gotta have a window seat, he enjoys the loft the wind gives his ears.) The driver buckles them all into seat belts with a minimum of struggle (a pre-admission interview separates A-list from B-list dogs, screening out those who aren't "social"). After stops in other tony neighborhoods, the busload of pooches is transported to a day of quality care.

"I do this so I can work all day and still give my dog a good quality of life, and he's not home lonely all day," explains Bentley's mistress, Karen Leigh, in a strange echo of every working mother's dilemma.

The next step?

Guilt-ridden dog owners form a lobby for a doggie day-care tax credit?

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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