From time to time, even the best, most caring dog owner may find it necessary to travel to places where dogs aren't welcome. Even though Norfolks are pretty portable, it may not be possible or even desirable to take them along on every excursion. But, if you suddenly find it necessary to travel, and haven't made any provisions for your pooch, the stress of finding suitable accommodations may be more than you can cope with at the last minute. Imagine, driving up to a place you've never visited and handing your best four-legged friend to a stranger. Peace of mind? Not a chance.
It's a good idea to visit several local establishments well in advance of when you may need them. Go ahead. Just drop in during regular business hours. It may not be convenient for the staff to give you a tour just then. After all, they may be in the midst of feeding all those paying customers, or of cleaning runs. But, you should be greeted promptly and courteously. The surroundings should be clean. A little dog hair here and there may be inevitable, especially if there's grooming being done nearby, but odor should be minimal. And, your wishes to see the place should be accommodated as promptly as possible.
Ask about fee schedules, whether or not you can put more than one dog in the same run, what drop off and pick up hours are. Ask if there is someone on the premises 24 hours a day (chances are the answer will be no) and, if not, is the place alarmed. Are there fire and smoke detectors? In older kennels, the answer will probably be no, but what are the surroundings like? Are you looking at a dry, old wooden edifice, or is the building made of cinder block? Are kennel doors securely latched? Do dogs have access to indoor/outdoor runs? If not, do staff members take them out on a regular basis? Is there a security fence surrounding the entire establishment in case a dog escapes from an outside run?
What vaccination history is requested? Are all dogs required to be current on their Bordatella vaccine (kennel cough) as well as distemper and rabies? You'd better hope that management requires proof of vaccinations before admitting any dog as a boarder.
If your dog requires daily medication, mention it to the staff. If someone brushes you off with, "Yeah, sure, pills, right," then you should immediately start to look elsewhere. On the other hand, if the proprietor seems sincerely interested in providing the level of care necessary to keep your dog safe and healthy, then that's the place you want to be.
There really is no place like home, and a pet sitter may be the way to go if you can find someone you trust. However, an occasional stay in a new environment is not necessarily a bad thing. It's unfair of owners to expect that their dogs will be treated exactly as they would be if they never left home. After all, it's asking a lot to expect your Norfolk to sleep on the kennel owner's bed or to have access to favorite shows on Animal Planet. But, clean, safe accommodations by a caring staff are musts if you really care about your dog's well-being.
As with many other services, a good way of doing some investigating is to ask your friends where they leave their dogs. If your veterinarian has boarding facilities, you may feel comfortable leaving your dog where she already knows some of the people. On the other hand, a boarding kennel which is someone's primary occupation, may afford the best all-around care for animals that are not ill.
In any case, don't wait until the last minute to make arrangements. Your Norfolk friends will only benefit from some advance planning.
ANTIC, September, 1999
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