Day care is going to the dogs


LOS ANGELES -- It's midmorning, and it's playtime. There's a tug-of-war going on and a furious game of chase. And over in the corner, one exhausted player has curled up for an impromptu nap.

Just like at any day-care center. Except this one's for dogs.

Besides helping find homes for abused animals, the two dog-loving owners of Camp Happy Dog in Sherman Oaks capitalize on local folks' desire to be good "parents" to their dogs when they can't be around.

So, instead of leaving Butch or Fido alone at home, owners bring their pooches to spend the day under the watchful eye of dog trainers who referee tussles, play ball, take them for walks, groom them, put them through obedience training and act as surrogate parents for the day.

"Owners say they feel guilty leaving their dog alone all day while they work, and to some extent, they should," says Nick Deleo, who with Deborah Nabb owns Camp Happy Dog. "Dogs are very socialized animals. They just love to be with you."

Day care costs $20 per pooch per day and includes all the games a dog can play before collapsing in exhaustion.

"Sometimes in the afternoon, I'll say to Nick, 'Listen. It's so quiet.' And we'll go look and they're all napping at the same time," says Nabb. "It's a half-hour of pure peace."

So far, about a dozen customers' dogs come to play each day, joining a handful of dogs that have been rescued and are up for adoption. Day-care dogs must have proof of up-to-date immunizations; dogs for adoption have had their shots, too.

Most owners drop off their dogs on the way to work and pick them up on the way home. But Deleo also picks up and delivers, takes dogs to veterinary appointments and even arranges after-hours dog-sitting for customers who work odd schedules.

"We tried to find something we could work at every day and enjoy," Nabb says. "I can't imagine a better way to spend your day than playing with dogs."

Pub Date: 6/08/98

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