For many of us, the holidays necessitate at least some travel, whether it’s an overnight trip to visit the in-laws or a much-needed vacation to a warmer climate. While it’s easy enough to ask a neighbor to bring in the mail and water the plants, making arrangements for your pets can be a source of anxiety, especially if they are particularly sensitive, older or on medications.
“Our facility is designed and set up specifically with an extreme focus on pet comfort,” says Katie Ambrose, medical director of the VCA Animal Wellness Center in Maple Grove. The combination vet, boarding facility and pet spa offers an ideal spot for dogs and cats to enjoy a relaxing vacation of their own while their owners are away.
Dog owners can choose from 16 spacious, private rooms that provide their occupants with everything from comfy cots and blankets to heated tile floors and televisons. Each room is themed, with décor mimicking an ocean cruise, a globe-trotting adventure or a stroll around Hollywood. Pets from the same household can share a room for a discounted rate, and owners can bring favorite toys or comfort objects from home to help their pet feel at ease.
Every day, the dogs are treated to eight hours of playtime in small, supervised play groups chosen based on each animal’s size and personality.
“It keeps them safe and enhances their quality of life,” says boarding manager Rachel Soukup. “Our staff is trained to assess temperament and sociability, and we’re lucky to have large divided spaces, so multiple play groups can be playing at once.”
The large, fenced area with a turf yard, toys, agility equipment and rest areas are subdivided to accommodate different social groups. “In the summer, we have kiddie pools and sprinklers; it’s a dog’s paradise,” Ambrose says.
The staff is trained in low-stress, fear-free handling techniques, so even less sociable dogs are catered to, with individualized play and one-on-one attention.
Cats, too, get their own luxury accommodations, including personal one- or two-level condos with direct views of the bird feeders right outside the windows that offer tons of natural light to bask in during afternoon naps in a kitty hammock or atop a cat tree.
Feliway, a calming feline pheromone, is continuously diffused to sooth nervous kitties. Each cat gets personal attention from a comfort specialist and, if they’re feeling adventurous, a chance to roam about by themselves, exploring the facility and hunting for treat-filled toys.
“Cats fear schedule changes, but our boarding staff can identify stress before it becomes a panic, so we can contact owners for ideas or prescribe anti-anxiety meds,” Soukup says.
While dog and cat owners can check in on their pets any time via webcam, knowing a hospital with caring, trained veterinary staff is just down the hall is a huge comfort, as well.
“Some of our guests have ongoing medical needs like diabetes or arthritis, so having them in a medical environment designed to feel like home provides people with a lot of peace of mind,” says Ambrose. “Our staff has actually saved animals with their observations.”
During their pet’s stay, owners can opt to utilize VCA’s grooming and spa services, which include pet massages, baths and nail trims. Each stay ends with a digital report card and picture emailed to the owner to fill them in on their pet’s adventures away from home.
“Health and wellness are multimodal concepts, and we definitely pride ourselves on providing advanced and compassionate care,” says Ambrose, noting it is sometimes pet owners that need more reassurance than their furry friends.
“I left my dogs here and I was as nervous as any pet owner,” she says. “But at the end, I got a picture of him smiling from ear-to-ear, and it felt awesome.”
If you’re unsure how your pet would handle being boarded, VCA offers dog and cat daycare options that provide a great trial run for a longer stay.