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Pups get pampered at day care

Tue., Jan. 15, 2008

When Sonya Liu moved to Spokane from dog-friendly Portland last year, she found the Lilac City somewhat lacking in canine culture. Like many large urban centers, Portland offers a host of amenities for dog lovers – off-leash dog parks, doggie day care, and dog-friendly businesses that allow pets to accompany owners while shopping or dining.

“The dog culture here is just very different,” says Liu, who now lives with her dog, Pinot, and her husband, David, on the South Hill. “But it’s starting to change.”

Since settling in Spokane last February, Liu says she has discovered one urban, dog-friendly amenity that is finally catching on in the area: doggie day care.

“We used doggie day care in Portland, so it was familiar,” says Liu, whose half Cavalier King Charles Spaniel-half miniature poodle spends two to three days a week at Alpha Dogs, a doggie day-care center in downtown Spokane.

“I work part time, and Pinot is a year-and-a-half, so his behavior is just so much better after going there,” she says. “I just like the fact that they really watch your dogs.”

One of only a handful of dog day-care centers in the Spokane area, Alpha Dogs has been in business for just over a year. Its owners – mother-daughter team Lee Smith and Leigha Wavra – run the operation much like a children’s day care. Wavra says owners typically drop their dogs off in the morning and retrieve them at night after work. Dogs are divided into groups – large and small, in which they play with toys, eat treats and even take naps.

“Oh yes, they have to get their naptime,” Wavra says. “We turn out the lights and put on classical music and they go to sleep.”

The day care even offers Web cams so owners can check in on their furry friends from home or work.

Although Alpha Dogs isn’t the only doggie day care in town – Play & Stay and Jeanne’s Doggie Day Care and Pet Hotel are among the handful of options in the area – it is the only dog day care centrally located in downtown Spokane.

“We’re glad we’re downtown – our customers love our location,” Wavra says, adding that most of their clients live on the South Hill or in Spokane Valley. And while most are “working upper class and retirees,” Wavra says young, childless couples like the Lius are increasingly common.

“Most of them just don’t like to leave their dogs at home alone while they work,” she says, noting that many dogs with behavior problems improve with the kind of consistent socialization they get at doggie day-care centers.

Although Alpha Dogs is currently focused on day care, Wavra says the company plans to offer professional grooming and boarding services in the future.

“We get a lot of requests for grooming,” Wavra says of Alpha Dog’s nascent clientele, a testament to Spokane’s growing demand for urban amenities.

“We’re getting there,” Wavra says. “That kind of atmosphere is getting here.”

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