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I never went to camp….not summer camp….not even day camp.  No lanyards, bunk mates, tug o’ war battles, or care packages from home…….and I turned out fine. It’s a good thing I’m not bitter at all, especially since Bailey is now a day camper.

The amenities are many and varied, and, sometimes, I have to remind myself that, if Bailey could “handle” it, he would be in a dog crate in our house all day, alone. He can’t and has demonstrated that he cannot be trusted around the holiday decorations, so he’s at day camp.

So, why do I suddenly feel like he should be having the time of his life, like the doggy equivalent of a Nickelodeon or Disney cruise?

I have to remember that the goal is to keep him out of trouble while we are at work. Still, it’s hard to pass up what some of the day camps have to offer, and we’re thinking about “mixing it up” with different places during the week. These are our choices…..

Gochenauer Kennels– This is the first kennel that we tried. We’d heard good things, and Bailey has always seemed excited to go. He stayed there for a week this summer, and the staff is friendly and capable.

For $20/day, you get “up to 3 meals or snack times, medications administered, and 2 complimentary Business Walks”. I love that….the “business” walk. This is to say, I suppose, that there will be no messing around or random frolicking. I can’t help thinking of Elvis and his TCB (taking care of business) crew…and how, at the end, well, he couldn’t. So sad.

You can also add also sorts of more expensive fun stuff from an a la carte menu, like an additional “business” walk, a “walk and brush”, or a “trail, treat, & brush”.

PROS: closest to the house, wonderful staff, 5% discount for cash payment, fenced in outdoor area for walks.

CONS: no play groups or free play, limited Saturday and no Sunday hours, extras are expensive.

Neffsville Veterinary Clinic- I’m not sure why we didn’t try them first, but we thought we “knew” that they were more expensive than other places. They are our vet,  and they offer ” a tropical paradise in our Caribbean Suites. Our basic room service includes 2 walks per day, Science Diet meals, music, Kuranda beds with fresh bedding, dinnerware and one activity play times. Doggie Daycare is $22.00 for the first guest. We also offer Doggie Daycare services in our Courtyard. The Courtyard Doggie Daycare includes fresh bedding, dinnerware, feeding, water and 2 complimentary five minute walks per day. The cost of Courtyard Doggie Daycare is $14.00 per day.”

Extra options include “Happy Time Package: Extra Walk, Snuggle Time & Skin & Coat or Joint Happy Treat $10.00; Doggie Festivity Package: Extra Walk, and Playtime & Snuggle Time $15.00; Doggie Delight Package: Playtime, Snuggle Time & Frozen Woofy $10.00” (Wouldn’t he, then, be having a BETTER day than he would at home with his family? A better day than all of us, actually.)

PROS: close to the house and work, immediate access to our vet if needed, $6 cheaper for “same” services (in the “projects” “Courtyard”) as at Gochenauer’s. Only $2 more than Gochenauer’s buys a play time and nicer digs, limited Saturday hours are available.

CONS: no fenced area for walks (right off of a major road), crushing emotional damage for the dog who realizes he is sitting in the “cheap seats” while others are living the life, should we choose not to spring for a “suite”, no Sunday hours.

PetSmart offers two different services. Doggie Daycamp is $19/day and “is a superior alternative to dog sitting. It’s a place for your pooch to enjoy hours of play and exercise when you can’t be there. Your best friend will enjoy playing with our caring staff and other friends who have been screened for group dog day camp play.” Doggie Day Care is $15/day and “is a great alternative to Doggie Day Camp for dogs that may not be up for an entire day of group play. Your pooch can spend the day in one of our atrium rooms equipped with a hypoallergenic lambskin bed. Plus, your pet can enjoy a group play session or an individual play time session along with any other add-on services you pay more for choose.”

Add-ons include snacks, treats, individual playtime, training camp, nail trimming, baths, brushing, and, of all things…

The “BONE BOOTH” – where they’ll bring your pet to the phone to “chat” with you. This is actually a FREE add-on.

We’ve used them a couple of times over this holiday break. The first time, I was impressed with the thorough check they did of Bailey (and the other day campers) to check for illness or other issues. At pick up, I got a full report of everything he did during the day, including bathroom breaks. The second visit was positive simply because they were OPEN Christmas Eve, and this allowed us to attend church as a family. Personal attention was lacking, though, both dropping off and picking up (probably a result of having the “holiday” staff on deck and about 30 dogs in house).

PROS: close to work, plenty of play-time and socialization for $19, lovely “hotel”-style lobby, nice record-keeping, open 7 days-a-week with the most liberal drop-off and check-out hours, vet within store (Banfield Vet, national chain), AND a frequent camper program where every tenth session is FREE.

CONS: no outdoor time whatsoever – they use a “relief room” inside for bathroom breaks (I thought for sure that Bailey would never go for that, but he did, and hasn’t tried the SAME at home YET), and ermmmm, “It’s PETSMART..” (that’s Scott, the kennel snob….)

Ideally, we’ll do some day camp play days and some straight kennel days. He could do both at one place on different days, and I know I’m thinking too much about this, but I feel like Bailey would be confused if, SOME days, he got to play with other dogs and, other days, he couldn’t, at the SAME place.

If you’re considering day care or camp for your pet, I hope I’ve given you some things to think about. If NOT, I can only hope that you’ve been entertained by the “fascinating” ins and outs of it all…it’s kind of a freak show…..