The Life of Pampered Pets

Some pet owners spare no cost when it comes to their furry friends, with daycare, clothing, birthday parties, and even a wedding…

There’s a new breed of pampered pets: those that are treated to spa days, slumber parties and daycare, and have enviable wardrobes overflowing with designer gear. A recent South African report shows that pet ownership is on the rise, partly due to the growing number of empty-nesters, single professionals, and couples who delay having children – and even for security reasons. We spoke to a few fanatical pet owners who are taking creature comforts to another level.

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To finally open my dog hotel’ Yanic Klue, 34, started the @Frits Dog Hotel & Daycare Centre in 2015. She lives in Cape Town with her husband Stiaan and seven dogs. I came across the concept of a dog hotel in 2010 while doing an MBA at Stellenbosch University. I felt it was an untapped market in SA – for many people, dogs aren’t just pets, they’re part of the family, and there are limited options when it comes to high-end daycare or kennels. I decided that a luxury doggy hotel and daycare was the answer – for discerning owners who want the best for their pups. It took five years of careful planning and raising the capital I needed to finally open a dog hotel of my own. Of course, I’m a dog owner myself; Frits was my first dog and I named the hotel after him – he is in fact the ‘CEO’! There are 26 staff members who take care of the 100 dogs that are allowed on the property at a time. Of those dogs, 10 are rescue fosters who we look after until they find their forever homes. During the week, 80% of the guests are in daycare, and 20% are in the hotel rooms, but over weekends and during peak holidays, the occupancy numbers are the other way around. We offer services from once-off nightcare until midnight (for dog parents who want a guilt-free night out), to the Platinum Suites, which boast flatscreen TVs. We have an on-site spa so guests can be groomed and pampered during their visit, there’s a selection of dishes on our lunch and treat menus, and there’s even a clothing range. I created the @Frits clothing line not only so that dogs can look fashionable – although that’s a lovely bonus – but also for local job creation. There’s now a team of 14 previously disadvantaged women who I’ve got on board to make the doggy clothes. The dog hotel will expand into other provinces in the near future, and when it does, I’d like to extend the number of women we employ, too. I believe we can help the world… one dog – and even human – at a time.

My friends think I’m mad for forking out on doggy daycare’ Ruth Strömbeck, 49, is a COO at an advertising agency and lives in Blouberg with her two-year-old rescue dog, Pawsha. My friends and family think I’m crazy for dropping Pawsha off at daycare while I’m at work – especially because it costs me around R3 500 a month! But I don’t have any kids so Pawsha has become like my child, and I love treating her. I can’t bear the thought of her being home alone all day and I think of the daycare fees as the equivalent of paying school fees if I had kids. Besides, Pawsha is so happy at daycare – it can be a struggle to get her into the car when we need to leave! If I go out of town, Pawsha stays in the dormitory section of the @Frits Dog Hotel & Daycare Centre, the same place she goes for daycare. The hotel does have private suites but Pawsha’s a social pup and really enjoys these occasional slumber parties. I love that I can use my phone to check the live webcam feed at any time, so I can see what she’s up to. It gives me peace of mind when Pawsha isn’t with me. In the past I’ve unashamedly thrown birthday parties for Pawsha and invited some of her friends over. At the last party, I got each dog guest a juicy piece of meat, a toy, and treats that they could take home, as well as dog-friendly cupcakes made of carrots, peanut butter, and honey. After the guests arrived, we went to the park to have a bit of fun and a walk, before returning home to enjoy the treats. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with lavishing attention – or presents – on your animals. Pawsha is an important part of my life, so she deserves to be treated well.

‘ They’re not just pets to me – they’re family’ Earlier this year Debi Clark, 52, and her husband Bob splurged on a wedding ceremony for their dogs, Honey and Joey. Despite loving dogs as a child, I never had one of my own because I’d break out in a rash whenever I came into contact with fur, and I didn’t expect that to change as I got older. But one day my sister brought her Chinese crested dog to my house and, when he jumped on my lap, nothing happened – probably because the breed naturally has very little fur. Thrilled that I’d finally overcome my allergy, two days later Bob and I welcomed our first dog, Fraggle, to the family. Within a few months we’d added two more Chinese cresteds to our brood, and, when a friend told me about Poppet, a Chihuahua that needed a foster home, I decided to take her in for a few days, while we looked for a permanent home for her. She never left my side and my allergies didn’t flair up. Within just a few months we had the same number of Chihuahuas as we had Chinese crested dogs and, later, when a litter of Chi-Chi puppies arrived, we kept all five. Since moving to a large property, we’ve taken in two Dobermanns and a teacup Chihuahua, bringing our pet total up to 14. Here comes the bride My one Chihuahua, Honey, is four and Joey – a Chinese crested – is three. Because they’re the smallest in the pack they immediately became best friends. They follow each other around all day and sleep cuddled up next to each other – I’ve always joked that they’re a ‘couple’.

Bob and I really love entertaining and, while discussing plans to throw a party at our house, we thought that a wedding is always fun, so why not organise one for Honey and Joey? I don’t do things by half measures and I’m lucky to have a team of people working for me that were happy to help plan, and pull off, the special occasion. We settled on a dusty pink and gold colour scheme and official wedding invitations were sent out. We threw a bachelorette party for Honey by hosting a doggy spa at home, and Joey had a stag party with obstacle courses a week before the actual day. The big day We invited a total of 63 guests, had 13 dogs in the wedding party, and there were 12 people – including me, Bob, the photographer and others – who worked behind the scenes.

The photographer and caterers arrived in the morning to set up in the garden, and at 11am we rolled out the red carpet, set out the chairs, and dressed the wedding arch. By 1pm we’d done a full rehearsal and by 2pm all the guests made their way to the garden. Honey walked down the aisle with Bob, while Joey and Fraggle waited at the altar. During the wedding ceremony, they shared treats from a special cup, walked back down the aisle to Who Let The Dogs Out, and headed up to the main house for the reception, which ended at 11pm. Honey and Joey have a kennel (it’s more like a wooden cabin!) of their own, complete with doggy beds, and that’s where they spent the wedding night. Happily ever after I get quite a lot of negative feedback on social media about the amount of attention and money I lavish on my pets, with some people suggesting that I have more money than sense. Often I’m told the money I splurge on my pets could be put to better use by a charity, but I donate regularly and, through my work as the owner of a talent- and model agency, I have raised thousands for charities over the years. A pet wedding is a bit OTT, but I really enjoy spoiling my dogs – they’re family to me – and I have no intention of stopping I design all our clothes, collars and beds myself’ Venessa Hsu, 34, lives in Fourways with her husband Chenyu Su.

They own Dog’s Life, a pet fashion and accessories brand. Walk into just about any mall and you’ll find a pet store with a rack of jackets, jerseys, coats or accessories for our furry friends. With so many pet-clothing options available, it’s difficult to believe that 11 years ago, when my husband, Chenyu, and I started Dog’s Life (with the help from our business partner, Shayne Howard) there was nothing like it in the country. When Chenyu and I went on a trip to the US in 2005, I did what I always do when I travel: I stocked up on cute trinkets and toys for our pets. I was amazed at the selection available – we just didn’t have this sort of thing in South Africa. Back home, I did some research into the market; yes, you could buy clothing for dogs but it was all very basic and functional – there was nothing with real wow-factor. Spotting this gap in the market, Chenyu and I decided to start Dog’s Life, a company selling fashion and accessories for dogs, both to the public and to pet stores. More than just clothes The pet industry has exploded over the past few years, and has become very competitive.

I think it’s a sign of the times; owners are increasingly treating their pets as members of their family. The phenomenon goes beyond standard dog jerseys and rain jackets to includ novelty items like wigs, footwear and even jewellery – and many people aren’t put off by the expense when they’re spoiling their best friends. We specialise in designer dog outfits, collars and bedding. I design all of our products and then travel to the biggest fabric markets in China twice a year to stock up on materials. Our clothing line includes the likes of T-shirts, dresses, hoodies, and coats – our cape-style dog coat happens to be our bestseller because it doesn’t have to fit over a dog’s legs – but we also sell toys and hair accessories. While owners want their dogs to look good, pet clothing isn’t just frivolous aesthetics.

Some dogs – especially smaller breeds – are as susceptible to the cold weather as we are, so our business is about more than just playing dress-up. We find that our busiest months for business are usually between April and June, when the weather starts to get colder. Every breed is different so it’s quite important for owners to do research before choosing what their dogs will wear; some breeds feel the cold and need an extra layer, while others prefer the cooler temperatures. I always recommend that people start putting clothes on their pups when they’re young – older dogs can be resistant to change, after all it’s hard to teach an old dog a new trick, even if it is just wearing an amazing dress for summer!

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