There's nothing wrong with being kind to animals, but Angelenos are taking things to extremes as are the firms serving them

Whoever said it's a dog's life didn't realize just how good dogs have it.

With more and more people choosing not to have children, and a strong economy giving them more expendable income than ever, they are apparently choosing to lavish their incomes on their pets. Our furry friends have become so pampered that in many families they have it better than the children, if the couple has children at all.

Hundreds of businesses around L.A. have cropped up to serve the luxury pet market. It's not unusual to see dogs toted around town in a Louis Vuitton pet carrier, a bargain at $1,000, or a Gucci, Paul Smith, Tiffany or Burberry. In Beverly Hills, the Shih Tzus wear Barry Keiselstein-Cord leashes for $1,500, or a genuine emerald collar from Pet Jewelry Beverly Hills.

But it isn't just accessories that people are mad for; in Hollywood, cats and dogs have as many services as humans from which to choose, including pet grooming, medicine, holistic food, herbs, vitamins, toys, pet sitters, massage therapists, doggie shrinks, party planners and holistic doctors.

A string of pet hotels or daycare spas have opened up in Los Angeles to indulge animals in the good life. Committed to that philosophy is a high-end doggie spa in West Hollywood for stressed pooches, called Chateau Marmutt, which offers everything that the self-actualized, upwardly mobile pooch could possibly want. The services range from aromatherapy grooming and massage therapy to off-premises physical training, socialization programs and an animal communicator (or psychic) on premises who deals with a dog's behavior and health problems.

The charge is $5 an hour for daycare, plus extra for grooming and massage, for which fees vary depending on the size of the dog.

Lavish living for Bowser

Dogs with designer tastes can enjoy an array of high-end products, from an inviting upscale boutique including organic treats, seasonally correct collars (leather for winter, fabric for summer) and imported beds from Australia. "I'm like the dog section of Fred Segal, but you can special order from me," says owner Michelle Rivera, a former TV producer.

All dogs are picked up at the end of the day by their owners and given a report on their day by the staff.

Then there's The Loved Dog in West Los Angeles, another pet daycare center owned by Tamar Gellar, a former intelligence officer in the Israeli air force who also teaches dog behavior at UCLA. It has over 6,000 square feet of space and boasts an indoor doggie park complete with slides, tunnels and couches, child-sized beds, pine-finished walls and skylights.

"We have a professional pet sitter at night who sleeps on a big bed, and the dogs can pile on there if they want, "says Layla Morelle, pet caretaker at The Loved Dog.

Depending on the size of the dog and the hours of stay, daycare fees at The Loved Dog range from $15 to $30 a day, and 24-hour care runs from $40 to $45 a day.

For those who don't want to leave their dogs at an outside facility, there are plenty of people willing to take care of the animals at the owners' homes while they're at work, from dog walkers to actual pet nannies. And while a neighborhood kid might be willing to walk the pooch for a few bucks, many of these people charge heavily for their services.

Self-styled "doggie shrink" Dana Bresin, a dog walker at Bunky's Buddies & Michael's Pet Sitting Service, a complete concierge in pet-sitting services, says it's worth it, because she knows how to handle difficult and nervous pets.

"I will spend 24 hours a day in a person's home to watch over a pet. Many animals are clinically diagnosed as neurotic, and must have constant attention or they will refuse food, hide and exhibit other disturbed behavior that can lead to their suicide," Bresin says.

Professional pet sitter Aunt Toby will do everything from walking dogs to cooking and serving them special meals, bathing them in bubble bath or just watching TV with them. Aunt Toby gets $12 to $20 for a walk and up to $50 for an overnight stay. Other pet sitters can charge up to $145 for overnighters, depending on what is involved and the size of the animal.

Weddings for dogs

More specialized services even bizarre ones are also plentiful in L.A. Take Hollywood Hounds, a Westside pet concierge that specializes in posh parties for doggies, including "Muttrimony" dog weddings that are held in a gazebo with a wedding cake. The bride and groom are ferried to the event in a white Rolls Royce.

Better yet, how about a "Barkmitzvah" for a doggie that has officially entered manhood? This celebration comes replete with kosher food, a rabbi and special music. Also very popular at Hollywood Hounds are birthday parties held under an outdoor garden mural of the "Hollywoof Bowl."

These special pet parties are priced at $250 for two hours, but can last as long and be as lavish as a pet owner desires for an extra fee, of course.

Hollywood Hounds also offers complete grooming services before the big event, with hair-dyeing in gentle washable tints for smaller dogs. Such dye jobs (light pinks and lavenders are especially popular) range from $25 to $75 apiece, and "pawdicures" with special nail polishes go for $25 per animal.

On the medical front, holistic veterinarians offer a wide variety of treatments for pets, including acupuncture, acupressure, Shiatsu massage, deep-tissue massage and aromatherapy massage all promising to soothe ailments from nervousness to tummy aches.

Los Angeles veterinarian Roger Valentine makes house calls for pets, charging $40 for the first visit and $25 thereafter not including charges for medicine. Holistic animal practitioner Angela Elliott will drive from San Diego to Los Angeles to pay a house call, offering such services as acupressure treatments, energizing work and classical homeopathic treatment, as well as aromatherapy massage.

"Any time you help animals, it is a wonderful thing," Elliott says.

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