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First of all, let me preface this by saying that the following pertains mostly to cats and dogs. For those of you with birds, snakes, lizards, rabbits, monkeys or anything else that might be considered a bit exotic, I’m guessing that your run of the mill kennel isn’t equipped to deal with them and that special considerations need to be made. I guess that’s the price that one has to pay for being “different”. That being said…

With summertime fast approaching many of us are getting ready to pack our bags and take a much needed vacation. After all, you work hard and you should be rewarded with the fruit of your efforts by either spending some time wandering deserted beaches, hiking distant trails or doing whatever it is that floats your boat when it comes to enjoying yourself.

So you plan your itinerary and everything looks like it's good to go but all of sudden, there’s Fido or Whiskers staring at you with those puppy dog eyes wondering just where the hell you’re headed without them. By this time, it might be too late in the game to arrange to have one of the local kids come by so you pick up the phone and call some of your local kennels to find out what they have to offer in terms of accommodations. Here’s a few things you might want to consider before choosing one.

First of all, make sure the kennel can handle your pet. If you’ve got some huge dog like a Great Dane or a Saint Bernard, you might have to shop around some. Many kennels only cater to small and mid-size breeds. If you have time, it might make sense to actually pay the place a visit and see for yourself. There’s no substitute for first hand experience and what they tell you over the phone might not be what they practice in real life.

While you’re there, check out the kennel’s general appearance. Does it smell like feces and/or urine? If they tell you that they have a “No Visitors” policy, your radar should go up. You should inquire about why this is and while they might explain to you that the animals housed there might react violently towards strangers or that you might be carrying in some type of bacteria that could infect the other animals, you should be a bit wary. You should also check out the temperature inside the building and to make sure it’s air conditioned and that there’s a good supply of clean drinking water available at all times.

If you’re boarding a dog, you should ask about the exercise area and how often and for how long Fido will be allowed to prance to his or hers heart’s delight. Cats are another story. Since they are solitary in nature and can get a good deal of exercise just by stretching, most kennels don’t have an area just for them.

It also might be a good idea to ask some questions of the folks who are going to be taking care of your four legged friend or to just observe them as they go about their chores. Are they patient and gentle with the animals or do they look better suited to work in a meat packing plant?

You should also note the security measures that the kennel has in place to keep the animals from running away. Since most of them, especially dogs, are loyal to a fault and don’t comprehend that they’re only going to be there for a short time they might think that their incarceration is going to be a long one and decide to try to make a break for it.

You should also inquire about such things as feeding schedules and the type(s) of food, medications and how often that your pet will be allowed to, uhm, relieve themselves. Another nice thing to know would be to see if there was a veterinarian either on call or on the premises at all times. Animals are, in some ways, like people. They are wary of strangers and that could lead to fights or the spreading of disease. The last thing you want to come home to after a week of rest and relaxation is a dead pet and having to explain to little Johnny or little Susie that their precious ball of fur is no longer with us and is not something I’d look forward to doing.

Some kennels might offer additional services such as bathing, grooming and clipping the animals’ nails. If they do, it probably comes at an additional cost.

I don’t think any animal looks forward to being boarded. They’re probably feeling confused and abandoned and their little animal feelings are bound to be hurt. To make a comparison, I’d equate it with what we humans might call “separation anxiety”. Here’s a few things you can do to help alleviate some of the pain that they’re going through.

First of all, before you embark on your adventure, you might want to do a “trial run” and let them stay overnight to adjust to their new surroundings. This is especially true when it comes to dogs. For the most part, they do much better when they know what they're getting into. Cats on the other hand, just don’t seem to care. Oh they might meow and moan for a bit but in the long run, they adapt much better than their canine counterparts.

If Spot or Snowball has a favorite toy that they like to play with or a blanket that they like to sleep on, you might ask the kennel operators if it’s okay if they bring it along. Just like humans who go away for extended periods of time, it’s always nice to have a piece of something along with you to remind you of home.

That’s about it folks. The best you can do is hope that your little furry friends had as good a time on their trip away from home as you did. Just remember that when you get back, they’re just as happy or, maybe even happier, to see you than are you are to see them.

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