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Pampered pets have no peeves about luxury digs


MIAMI -- Like many rich kids, Evita is on a deluxe summer vacation in the country. Very structured. Up at 7 a.m., breakfast at 8, three hours of bonding until nap time at noon. The treat cart with shrimp snacks comes by at 3:30 and then dinner at 5 p.m.

Her unit is air-conditioned with a picture window overlooking the gardens, lighted at night. Soft music plays. Mozart is best. No one likes opera. Evita can climb a tree or work out in the gym. Her Aunt JoAnn is there if she cries or has to relieve herself.

Eze, another pampered kid, is at a five-star resort. He likes to play Frisbee and chew tennis balls outside under his own tree; except at midday when he comes in from the noonday sun.

It would be wrong to call Evita a cat and Eze a dog. They are love slaves, used to the finest at home and given lavish treatment worthy of the Michelin Guide when away.

Time was animals went to a kennel when owners traveled.

No more.

"This is like a Club Med for dogs," says Tony Guigou, owner of the five-acre Royal Pet Inn in the Redland suburb of Miami, where the entrance is via a long driveway lined with royal palm trees.

Mr. Guigou's is a restricted, dogs-only facility, but not just any mutt can get in. Reservations are required, and an advance interview with the animal's veterinarian must take place to ensure its shots are current and that "this is the kind of pet we want to have as a customer."

Charges run $8 to $16 a day plus a first-day bathing charge. The Royal is fully booked with 36 guests this particular weekend, including a golden retriever named Eze. By September another 40 units will be added.

JoAnn Roberts operates A Country Cat House in West Dade County's Horse Country where Evita is staying. Pastel-colored units have a living area with a fresh shag rug plus a bedroom. Lux units have a picture window on life in the garden -- birdbath, fountains, lizards -- or their own aquarium full of goldfish.

Litter boxes are changed after every use. Roast chicken is served at Sunday dinner.

About a third of her customers drive from Broward and Palm Beach counties to board cats with Ms. Roberts, who talks to her "boys and girls" in baby talk and writes notes to owners signed "purrrr-sonally."

"The people who come here are looking for this. They want purrrrsonal care," says Ms. Roberts. One Friday an owner called to make sure his two cats were drinking only Evian bottled water. Ms. Roberts serves a different brand.

Daily charges run $7.50 and $8.50, depending on the view. A three-story condo with tree is $19. Ms. Roberts is building 12 new double-size suites with castles, cat-sized chaise lounges and silver food bowls.

"Personalized pet care is the up-and-coming thing now," says Barbara Abercrombie-Sayre, owner of Pets Are Inn, which caters mostly to dogs, only indoor and gentle ones. "People want the comforts now."

She picks up and delivers, even at the airport, and places pets in private homes with pet sitters, charging up to $15 a day plus mileage. Like others, she requires a personal interview ahead of boarding, discussing needs, medicines, likes and dislikes, diet and even what language the animal responds to. Some require Spanish-spoken-only homes.

"These are people's babies, pampered babies," says Ms. Sayre. "You wouldn't put a child in a cage. Why put a pet in a cage?"

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