Parents concerned about their four-legged latchkey kids have a new option now: doggy day care at the Gastineau Humane Society.
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Part day camp, part etiquette training, part boarding service, the "Furry Frontier" program will take dogs from 7:15 a.m. to 5:45 p.m., for $14 a day. Two dogs can be brought in for $20 a day. They'll be walked, trained and socialized.
"They'll be in play groups, just like in pre-school," said Chava Lee, the society's executive director. "They'll get to play with others of their own kind. ... We know from personal experience, it's hard for dogs to be alone by themselves all day long."
Part of the plan is to turn the dogs into "canine good citizens." Another part is to exercise the dogs to make them too tired to misbehave.
When the animals act badly, owners often consider getting rid of them. The society's staff hopes to break that cycle by heading off problems.
"They're not at home, chewing up the Barcalounger," Lee said.
She gave a tour recently of the society's facilities on Glacier Highway. A grooming room was packed with shampoos and conditioners.
Sick animals were kept behind a closed door. A laundry room whirred with activity, cleaning the fresh towels that each humane society "guest" receives each day. Stacks of stainless steel bowls glittered in the kitchen.
A row of cages for the kennel was home for dogs without homes. The society cares for about 65 animals currently.
Passing by the cats, Lee said, "They've got their own music and their own air system."
Much of the day care program will take place outdoors, as head volunteer coordinator Emily Hudyma takes the dogs on tours of the Twin Lakes area and Brotherhood Bridge. The exercise is important.
"It takes the edge off," Hudyma said. "A tired dog is a good dog."
The program was first offered to the society's staff, Lee said. She brings her dogs in twice a week.
"I've been kind of a guinea pig with my dogs," Lee said. "As much as I loved them before, I really love them now. Life is much more enjoyable. Walks are much more fun. ... All of us can use a little manners now and again."
Hudyma said they can offer a little "human training" too, to make sure the people are in charge of the pets and not the other way around.
She summed up her philosophy in a sentence:
"Good dogs can be great, and great dogs can be awesome."
Ken Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.