For anyone who has ever felt despair after watching a pet disappear behind the "Staff Only" sign at a boarding kennel, Fred Wolpert has an answer: a closed-circuit television system so the owner can watch the pet make its way to its vacation quarters.
Ever longed to whisper soft reassurances to a boarded pet from a bungalow in the Cayman Islands? Mr. Wolpert will have telephones at his proposed Willow Wood Country Club for Pets in Marriottsville.
And for those worried that their pet will miss the afternoon soaps, Mr. Wolpert will have a television lounge.
"The things you're able to do now are much more advanced over what you were able to do 20 years ago," said Mr. Wolpert, 53, who proposes to build a 160-dog, 64-cat kennel on his 118-acre property on Marriottsville Road, just north of Route 99.
Mr. Wolpert currently owns the nearly 30-year-old Preston Country Club for pets, which can house 150 dogs and 35 cats in its wooded surroundings on Old Columbia Road near Kings Contrivance village.
His planned Marriottsville kennel would be in a remodeled and expanded indoor riding ring and stables surrounded by an expanse of white-railed horse pastures. It will be equipped with the latest in pet amenities. Mr. Wolpert said he hopes to have the kennel open by next summer.
The county Department of Planning and Zoning and the county Planning Board both have endorsed his request for a zoning special exception for the project. The case will be decided by the county Board of Appeals, which has scheduled its hearing for 7:30 p.m. Sept. 20.
In the Baltimore-Washington area, only a kennel in Northern Virginia has incorporated some of the pet-care advances that he is planning for his new venture, Mr. Wolpert said.
"You have a lot of older kennels, like here or worse," said Mr. Wolpert, sitting in the office of the Preston kennel. "What I hope to do in Marriottsville is to combine the country kennel with a state-of-the art kennel near a large metropolitan market."
Each "accommodation," as Mr. Wolpert calls each animal's living space, will have skylights, radiant heat, central air conditioning and a ventilation system capable of changing the entire facility's air in six minutes.
"It's got a sound system, so the dogs will have stereo all the time. If the dogs want to watch television, you've got jacks."
Basic daily rates could be in the $15 to $18 range, with extra charges for amenities such as play time, which could cost an extra $3 per hour, and still other charges for television and telephone service.
Such amenities go back to Mr. Wolpert's experience as a kennel owner in Malvern, Pa.
"At the kennel in Pennsylvania, I had a number of customers who wanted to have a very homelike atmosphere, to the point where the dog could watch television three hours a day," he said.
The sale of Mr. Wolpert's Animal Inn in Malvern allowed him to buy the Marriottsville property for an undisclosed sum from a bank holding company.
The property, previously owned by developer Lawrence R. Rachuba, has been unoccupied for 3 1/2 years. Since Mr. Wolpert and his wife, Marcia, bought it in December, they have been restoring it as a horse farm. If they get approval for the kennel, they plan to begin building inside the riding ring building.
After the kennel is in operation, Mr. Wolpert said he may lease about 80 acres of the property to someone knowledgeable about horses.
"I've got a couple of people who have approached me already," said Mr. Wolpert.
Homebuilders have approached him, too, but Mr. Wolpert said that he would prefer to go ahead with the kennel.