Friday, June 29, 2007 Pet pampering big in O.C. http://www.ocregister.com/ocregister/homepage/abox/article_1748202.php The pet products and services industry is big business, and they have their eye on Orange County. Dog getting a 'blueberry facial'... By HANG NGUYEN The Orange County Register A beloved Yorkshire Terrier named Lady Daphne of Laguna Beach has a closet, chest drawers and jewelry box. She owns 10 pet carriers, among them a $325 Juicy Couture bag and a $400 Puchi satchel. Daphne also has three dozen harnesses to match her outfits, which include cable-knit sweaters, suede jackets, kimonos, visor hats and PJs. The dog even owns jewelry: sapphire and opal necklaces and a triple strand of pearls. Real pearls. "Daphne is my heart," said her owner/mom, RonDee Kelly, 49, who has an art gallery in Laguna Beach called Pure Color. "She's become an extension of me. I used to lavish gifts on my only daughter. Now, I lavish gifts on Daphne." Responding to a growing number of self-described pet parents many of whom have grownup children or no children at least 15 pet spas, shops and hotels have opened or unleashed new services and products during the last 18 months in Orange County. Increasingly, money spent on pets isn't just going toward basic food and toys. Nowadays, owners are splurging for cosmetic surgeries, acupuncture, massages, DNA tests, organic pet food, paintings of pets, swimsuits, waterbeds and haute hotels. In Manhattan, the "Presidential Suite" at the Ritzy Canine Carriage House goes for a whopping $175 a night. As part of a $65 grooming package for mutts, the one-year-old Hair of the Dog Mobile Dog Spa in Ladera Ranch gives blueberry facials. (It makes the fur of white pooches even whiter). Last fall, Kiehl's, the apothecary known for its human-oriented products, began offering at its South Coast Plaza store a canine shampoo, conditioner and cleansing spritz. A few months ago, local Bloomingdale's stores started carrying a Juicy Couture pets line. There's even Pet Fashion Week in New York City. Prompted by the rising popularity of pet couture, the runway shows this August are part of the second annual event. And dressing up your pooch in a stylish sweater, or carrying it in a posh bag, is no longer just for the Paris Hiltons of the world. It's gone mainstream. Target and Wal-Mart are grabbing a slice of the $39 billion U.S. pet industry. A pet stroller goes for $85 at Wal-Mart and for Target, Isaac Mizrahi designs doggy trench coats. The proliferation of pet shops and services comes at a time when the industry sales growth rate, albeit strong, has slowed down. This year, the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association expects the market to expand to $41 billion. That's a 6 percent increase, a rate it has hovered around for each of the past three years, vs. 10 percent back in 2003. The year 2003 was the "first big year of baby boomers turning from kids, who have moved out, to pets," said Bob Vetere, president of the pet association. Those folks loaded up on pricey items to make their homes animal friendly. After that initial surge, spending leveled off. He believes the market's growth rate will rise as more baby boomers become empty nesters. FIDO IS FAMILY Here's the statistical truth about cats and dogs and mom and dad. And, while it may hurt, it also explains a lot about why the pet industry is roughly double the size of the market ($22 billion) for children's toys. A poll released last year by the Pew Research Center asked people who they felt closest to in their families. Fido ranked No.1, with more than nine out of 10 pet parents describing their relationship with their mutts as "close." Mom came in second, but should be happy considering the competition. And sorry, dad, even the cat easily beat you in the intimacy race. Such feelings justify why owners invest in their pet's health. Lisa Avery, an attorney who lives in Laguna Beach, adopted Rosie, an American Bulldog, two years ago. Since then, Avery has spent about $20,000 on things she hopes will give Rosie, who has mild paralysis, a long, happy life. When Rosie's paralysis got worse, Avery took her to two neurosurgeons, who recommended an MRI, which revealed she had a cyst on her spinal column. So the paralysis will get worse if nothing is done. The doctors suggested surgery. "It's heartbreaking," Avery said. But Avery, who believes in natural medicine, is trying alternative methods to sidestep the risky surgery or increase its success. Rosie, three and a half years old, gets organic dog food, daily vitamin supplements, walks on the beach and day-care visits for socialization. Rosie also has acupuncture and hydrotherapy, which is like physical therapy under water, to try to help with the paralysis. "I do for her as I would for any human I care about," Avery said. CANINE CHECKS INTO HOTEL Come December at The Market Place in Tustin, PetSmart, the largest U.S. pet-store chain, will open its third PetsHotel in Orange County. The hotel chain, which plans to expand from 70 locations to eventually 435, is considering more sites in Orange County. "They are pretty impressive," said Walter Todd, a money manager with Greenwood Capital, a PetSmart investor. "You wouldn't mind staying in one yourself." The Brea PetsHotel, which opened about a year ago, offers a basic room for $23 a night and a suite a larger space with a raised cot and TV showing movies like "Lady and the Tramp" and "Scooby Doo" for $33 a night. Prices include phone calls between parents and pets at the "Bone Booth." The one in Brea rings every hour. The four-legged hotel guests, who typically stay three to four days, even get visitors from the owners' friends and family. Also for free, the Brea hotel has accommodated certain requests. A Christian owner asked that a prayer be read to her Newfoundland dog, Precious, before she eats. The parent of an American Eskimo requested that a radio tuned to the Disney channel stay on all day. The owners of Sterling, a white cat, asked the staff to play a recorded tape of them cooing: "We love you." Grooming, training, play time, lactose-free ice cream and chew toys are extra. After returning from a three-day Ensenada cruise, Paulette Corum, 54, on Monday gave her two Great Pyrenees, Chloe and Baxter, bear hugs, saying "Mommy and Daddy are home." The $250 bill from Brea PetsHotel, which included training for one-year-old Chloe, was expensive, said Corum, a private banker and mother of four grown children who lives in Brea. But she was willing to fork over the money to professionals to look after her "babies." On Monday, the Brea PetsHotel was 95 percent full. Guests include Morgan, a Boxer mix, and Bailey, a Lhasa Apso mix, who are staying for four months. That owner's bill will be something like $3,000. The Bone Adventure, the Costa Mesa cage-free daycare and overnight boarding facility with a webcam, continues to set itself apart from the competition. Business has been doing so well that it's looking to open a second location in 2008, possibly in Irvine. Last October, it began selling a $250, 20-page custom book filled with narrated photos of the dogs' activities during their stay. Kendie Schlecht, 37, an attorney who lives in Irvine, bought one of those books. She and her husband, Karl, also an attorney, have forked over similar amounts for other art pieces of their three pugs, Chester, Bruno and Leo. She paid $225 for a wood carving of the dogs, and he paid $250 to $300 for a painting of the pugs that hangs over the fireplace. The Schlechts don't have children but consider the pugs their "boys." "It gives us a glimpse into their lives when they're away from us," Kendie said of the book. DOGGIE FIRST, HUBBY SECOND Kelly treats Daphne, a five pound, two-and-a-half-year-old creature, like her baby. She takes the Yorkie to the art gallery every day. She'll strap her into the dog seat on the passenger side of her Audi TT Roadster and drive with the top down. Inside the car is the diaper bag that holds Daphne's essentials: harnesses, T-shirts, hair detangler spray, brush, hair clips and doggy wipes that smell like mango. So it's no surprise that Kelly, married with two grown children, says her favorite family member is Daphne, who she bought for $3,000. Her husband, Mike Kelly, 55, a photographer whose artwork hangs in their Laguna Beach gallery, comes in second. "That's fine with him because he adores her too," RonDee Kelly said. But after she "went nuts" and dropped about $10,000 on stuff for Daphne in the first year, her husband said: "OK, now it's time to slow down." She has, a bit. After all, Daphne is "the love of my life."