For dog owners, the holiday season can bring with it feelings of guilt and worry. And that's likely to be truer this year.
With an ailing economy and airline fees skyrocketing, that
flight that ever so kindly overlooked your 55-pound English bulldog last year may now be too pricey an option, meaning that either Coconut will be riding in the belly of an Aspen-bound 737 or spending her holidays behind bars at your area kennel.
But short or spending a resentful Christmas morning at home staring down your too-old-to-travel pet, we've come up with some haute dog options born from Hollywood's most-pampered pooches.
Christmas Check-In at Rover Hotel
After visiting the local kennel recommended by our friendly veterinarian, we were horrified to find a caged infirmary or lizards, cackling birds and sad-faced dogs yelping and yipping behind metal bars. After the staff hesitated to show me exactly where my dog would be waiting for Santa, I swore I would never ski a Christmas morning slope in
ever again. Then came
Located in a chic warehouse-style loft in Culver City, Calif., a friendly dog trainer's recommendation led to my 9 a.m. consolation with owner Jeff in the espresso lounge of L.A.'s haughtiest dog hotel. Rover is more than just a dog hotel; it also offers cage-free daycare, training and grooming for an array of dogs and cats. All guests and owners are interviewed to assess temperament and ability to play with others.
Overnight guests select from standard rooms, upgraded suites and the presidential suite. Standard boarding includes a self-contained room with glass door, fluffy dog bed and all-day access to the cage-free play area. Upgraded suites offer free-standing platform beds with more sedate color palettes and catering options like doggy tea parties arranged with like-tempered and like-sized dogs. The Presidential Suite offers 24-hour playtime with on-site staff as well as animal-theme movies like
Babe - Pig in the City
But perhaps our favorite amenity at Rover Kennels is its endless concierge services that include an in-room mini-bar of pre-selected treats like turkey hotdogs, doggie ice cream and holiday dinners of organic turkey and sweet potato. Those looking for a more glamorous stay can enroll in one of the photograph packages that include art-quality prints and posters of your best friend while on their winter holiday retreat.
Doggie Trainers for New Year's Resolutions
Perhaps you plan to stay home for the holidays, but endless parties and events have your pooch barking the holiday blues?
Run, doggie, run
could be the mantra of
, one of Hollywood's hottest dog training and canine walking programs that offers daily exercise sessions of 30- and 45-minute runs by celebrity dog trainer Jessa Baxter and her crew of attentive pacers
Get Fido back to his fighting weight.
Your experience with Pooch Pacers begins with a 30-minute meet-and-greet that tests the needs and limitations of your pet. Pooch Pacers then sets up a weekly fitness program that will either maintain your dog's fitness level or get him to drop off some of that begging weight in a healthful and fun-filled cycle of daily or biweekly runs. Given the fact that nearly 17 million dogs in the U.S. are overweight or obese, this is a holiday gift that may actually save your dog's life.
While Pooch Pacers is currently available throughout metropolitan Los Angeles, the company is looking to debut new franchises throughout the U.S. and eventually into New York and Chicago.
The Four-Legged Country Club
could just as easily be one of the hottest restaurants in town with its all-white façade and unmarked door with street front of idling Mercedes, Escalades and Rolls Royce Phantoms. The only difference is it's leggy clientele -- a four-pawed catwalk of some of LA's most pampered pooches coming and going from the city's only canine country club.
Membership to the city's most exclusive country club comes with an on-site interview and well-priced initiation that usually starts from roughly $250 per year. Once enrolled, dogs are greeted on a first-name basis in a central reception area that leads to an all-white boarding room and rear courtyard with a scientifically modified play area on joint-friendly Astroturf.
While owners hit the fashionable boutiques or Rodeo and Robertson, pets are indulged with doggie yoga, individually tailored daybeds and meals provided by an on-site chef who works together with the club's medical director to create a personalized nutrition plan. At the end of the day, your dog is treated to a late-afternoon Jacuzzi soak before being picked up or personally dropped off by Club staff just in time to celebrate.
Michael Martin is the managing editor of JetSetReport.com -- a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in In Style, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine, ITV and BBC.