The New York Times (pg. 14NJ-1)
November 27, 2005 Sunday


By Jill P. Capuzzo

Opting for the three-story suite, McClawski and Bronte recently
checked in for a six-day stay at a country inn in Morris County. In
Essex County, a play date was being arranged for Boo and Bow at a
Fairfield day care center, while in Red Bank, Sophie had to decide
between a jean jacket and a hand-knit sweater as a fall chill hit the

McClawski and Bronte are Maine coon cats, Boo and Bow are golden
retrievers, and Sophie is a Boston terrier. They are among the
thousands of animals receiving royal treatment through products and
services tailored for pets.

Whether they are chic city dwellers who view their pets as fashion
accessories, young couples taking a test run at being parents, or
empty nesters whose animals have replaced the children who moved out,
pet owners are indulging their four-legged charges as never before.

The pet industry is one of the nation's fastest-growing businesses,
having more than doubled in annual revenues in the last 10 years. By
year's end, America's 69 million pet owners -- close to two-thirds of
all households -- are expected to spend $35.9 billion on pet products
and services, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers
Association. The growth has been strongest in the high end of the
market -- designer clothes, upscale care centers and advanced medical
treatments -- as owners insist on nothing but the best for their pets.

And New Jerseyans are no exception.

At the Prince and the Pawper, a pet boutique and salon in Ocean
Township in Monmouth County, Gail Finowitz ran her fingers across the
fake-mink dog bed she sells for $199. "This is nicer than the bed I
have in my house," said Ms. Finowitz, who opened her store in July,
offering customers collars studded with Swarovski crystal, kosher
liver dinners, breed-specific ceramic goody jars and other lavish

At the front of the store, Ms. Finowitz displays a bakery case filled
with dog treats that look as if they belong in a patisserie, and in
the back she provides full salon service for dogs, including nail
polishing. She says most of her customers are in their 40's or older,
with plenty of disposable income.

"As people are getting older, their kids are leaving home, and their
pets become their little child," Ms. Finowitz said. "Long gone are the
days of the dog in the doghouse."

Up the road in Red Bank, the showroom in PawPalace is so well stocked
with tiny pink sweaters and jackets that many expectant mothers
mistake it for a store that sells baby clothes.

"If I see a pregnant woman walk in, with no pets, I go up to her and
ask, 'What kind of dog do you have?' And when I get a blank stare, I
know they're in the wrong place," said Dana Ujobagy, who ran a
successful Web site selling similar goods for a year before opening
her store three months ago.

Being in hip Red Bank, her customers are more in the style of Paris
Hilton, who made carrying tiny dogs a fashion statement with her
constant companion, a Chihuahua named Tinkerbell. Ms. Ujobagy
(pronounced YOO-zhuh-bayzh) encourages customers to take their pets to
her shop so they can try on dog-size Burberry-style plaid raincoats or
leatherlike motorcycle jackets.

Purse for a Pooch

One popular item at PawPalace is the PuppyPurse, a dog carrier that
looks more like a jacket hanging from a strap. The open-air carrier
was created by Hedy Grant and Suzanne Sherman, two North Jersey
lawyers who were looking for a better way for Ms. Sherman to carry her
somewhat sickly Maltese, Sammy.

"Most dog carriers are enclosed, so she thought he'd be way too hot,"
said Ms. Grant of New Milford. "She wanted to be able to see him all
the time, and have him close to her heart, but be out and admired by

So the two women designed what they describe as a wearable pet
carrier, made of fashionable materials stretched between polypropylene
straps. Prices range from $55 for basic denim to $200 for black

As someone whose previous career was in corporate banking -- and whose
previous pets were larger -- Ms. Ujobagy said her attitudes about
petwear were completely changed by getting a small dog two years ago.
Her Boston terrier, Sophie, has a full wardrobe of hooded sweatshirts,
jogging outfits and dresses.

"I was always a big-dog person, boxers, labs," she said. "But once you
get a little one, it's a whole different story. I'm one of those
mommies who would have raised an eyebrow two years ago, and look at me

LuAnn Gevaza's life was changed by getting one dachshund, Timmy, and
then a second, Joey. Wanting to spend more time with her pets, she
traded in a 23-year career at Goldman Sachs, and a daily five-hour
commute to New York City, for a pet boutique and gift shop in Point
Pleasant Beach. Since opening Bark Lane in August, Ms. Gevaza has done
a brisk business in throne-shaped dog beds, cat strollers and fleece-
lined duffel coats for dogs.

While she has had her share of empty-nest shoppers and the fashion
conscious (whom she predicts will soon be wearing their dogs around
their necks as pendants), another sizable customer base comprises
people like herself: those who missed out on having children, and are
putting their energies into their pets.

"You have people who spent their whole lives working. Then they say,
'I'm ready now," but they can't have kids. So they say 'I'll have
dogs," " said Ms. Gevaza, 49. "They're not just pets anymore. They're
fulfilling psychological needs in people, and therefore becoming more
important in people's lives."

According to a 2003 survey by Yankelovich Partners, 92 percent of pet
owners consider their pets family members. Those referring to
themselves as "mommy" or "daddy" have grown to 83 percent from 55
percent in 1955.

For Maggie Rapp, there is no question that her chocolate Labrador,
Benjamin, is a member of the family. In fact, the dog has allowed her
and her husband, Rob, to work out their child-rearing skills before
taking the plunge.

"He's been our child," said Ms. Rapp, 30, a decorative painter from
Lawrenceville. "It's helped us understand how we deal with discipline,
how we deal with each other."

Each year, the couple's Christmas card features a photo of Benjamin.
Making homemade dog biscuits and dog popsicles is routine. Twice a
week, Ms. Rapp arranges a play date for Benjamin, and her car has a
bumper sticker declaring, "My dog is smarter than your honor student."
When the couple plan vacations, they always select places that allow

Ms. Rapp is not alone in wanting to take her dog along; close to one-
third of all pet owners have checked into hotels or motels with their
pets, according to the Travel Industry Association of America. But for
those unable to take their pets along, there is pet boarding, which,
like everything else in the industry, has gone upscale.

Walter Morris frowns when a visitor asks about the dog kennels.

"We don't ever use that word," said Mr. Morris, the owner of the
Morris Animal Inn in Morristown, a 12,000-square-foot animal boarding
center that is in the process of a $5 million renovation that will
double its size.

From Kennel to Penthouse

While dogs are housed in pens that look very much like the traditional
kennels surrounded by chain-link fence, with the expansion, they will
soon occupy skylighted penthouse suites, more in keeping with those
now serving the inn's cat population. On a recent weekend, two Maine
coon cats enjoyed one of the three-story cat condos, complete with
four-poster beds, toy dressers and a television showing a continuous
video of birds and fish.

In addition to the routine walks and feedings, the inn offers special
packages. The top of the line is the King or Queen Package, which, for
$89 a night, includes five play sessions, three walks, a heated bed
with a dog treat on the pillow, and personalized tuck-in with a
bedtime story. Since the inn opened in 1986, Mr. Morris said, the
demand for more and better service has been growing, resulting in the
decision to expand.

"In the last couple of years, our client base has been asking for more
and more," Mr. Morris said. "When people go away, they feel guilty, so
they want to know their animals are having fun, too."

To put the owners' minds at rest, the inn offers to send them photos
of their pets during their stay.

A different kind of day or overnight experience is available at Camp
Bow Wow, a national franchise chain of dog boarding centers. Randy
DeFazio, a partner of the Camp Bow Wow in Bridgewater Township, said
that "people who have been reluctant to board dogs in kennels are
willing to try this out."

Playing off the camp theme, Bow Wow boards the dogs in "cabins" and
gives them "campfire treats" before lights out. Nervous parents can
monitor their dogs' activities by Webcam.

"While people are away at work, they can watch us," Ms. DeFazio said.
"If people can't see their dog, they'll call us."

Pet owners have grown increasingly reluctant to leave their pets home
alone all day and are feeding another booming segment of the pet
industry: animal day care. These centers, which are springing up
around the state, provide a chance for dogs to socialize and cats to
get a little attention, all while easing the guilt of pet owners over
leaving their animals when they are at work.

At the newly opened Rover Ranch in Fairfield, dogs are screened to
determine which play area best suits them. The 5,000-square-foot
center can accommodate about 40 dogs in its day care area and 30
overnight boarders. The rooms are painted in bright yellows, blues and
oranges -- a touch that Marty Bratman, the owner, admits is meant to
appeal more to the humans, since dogs are colorblind -- and have
rubberized flooring for better exercise.

In addition to the play they get in the pens, supervised by "ranch
hands," the dogs are walked three times a day and fed. Typically, dogs
come two or three times a week to the ranch, said Mr. Bratman, a
former New York advertising executive.

"People make reservations in advance," he said. "After a while they
get to know who's coming on what days. It becomes more like a play
date." Day care is $28 for a full day, and overnight stays cost $40.

Pet owners are not scrimping on health care, either. Medical
treatments previously reserved for humans are being offered to pets,
including preventive dental care, psychological counseling and pain

Veterinary Acupuncture

Over the last seven years, Dr. Neil Hess has provided acupuncture
treatments to more than 100 animals he sees in his normal veterinary
practice in Old Tappan. The patients, mostly older dogs, lie on his
examining table while he inserts a series of needles in specific

Dr. Hess said the procedure helps stimulate nerves, increases blood
flow and releases hormones that control pain. He said he has seen
patients become more energetic, eat better and start playing with
their toys after several sessions.

"No one treatment or medicine is going to work every time," Dr. Hess
said. "You might have a 12-year-old Lab who's having difficulty
getting around, or can't go up stairs. He's already been on steroids,
so you start acupuncture."

Whether it is dressing a Shih Tzu in designer clothes or trying to
extend the life of a Lab, in the end, many pet owners agree: They will
do anything for the animals that have done so much for them.

"I can't imagine life without a pet," said Ms. Rapp, the mother of
Benjamin, the chocolate Lab. "Especially now, when people are so
unsure about their careers, and money, and the way this country is
going. Then you come home at night and there's this animal that just
wants you."

Copyright 2005 New York Times