Luna Bella is living her best doggie life.
The 2 1/2-year-old mixed dog breed is a familiar presence at the Morris Animal Inn, which touts itself as a luxury resort and spa for pets. She spent three nights at the inn’s new location in Montville last Friday while her owner vacationed in upstate New York.
The inn is a far cry from the traditional kennel experience long associated with boarding dogs and other family pets. Options include doggie facials, canine cardio sessions on modified treadmills, and splash pads for beating the summer heat.
“She had a suite,” her owner, Lin Fales of Parsippany, said in recounting her stay.
Luna Bella — her name means “beautiful moon” in Italian — is among the estimated 23 million pets adopted by US families during the coronavirus pandemic. The surge in pet ownership has intensified the push toward so-called luxury care, particularly for dogs, according to those in the industry.
The Morris Animal Inn debuted in Morristown in 1986 and expanded to Montville in February. It is planning to open a third facility in Warren Township by year’s end, according to company vice president Joann Morris.
Both locations offer climate-controlled suites with natural light and 3-story kitty condos with faux leather sofas, in addition to daycare-type options.
“It’s not just warehousing dogs anymore. It’s providing a lifestyle,” Morris said.
The Morris Animal Inn is not alone in expanding.
K9 Resorts Luxury Pet Hotel, founded in 2005 in Fanwood, has 19 locations in 11 states, including seven in New Jersey. Its most recent pet hotel opened in Iowa three weeks ago and approximately 15 others are planned for next year, spokesperson Cassie Gato said.
“People are treating dogs like their family members now. They want them to get the same love and care they get at home, which is different than, say, 30 years ago, when it was ‘just a dog.’ Now, it’s somebody’s children,” Gato said.
The luxury trend transcends doggie housing. A company that sells grooming products, Pride & Groom, debuted in New York City in July 2020.
Offerings include “Mane Tame,” a waterless foaming shampoo aimed at freshening up a dog’s coat between grooming visits. Mane Tame is included in a $95 “city slicker” package that also features a microfiber towel with hand pockets, grooming wipes and deodorizing spritz with notes of bergamot, citrus and ylang ylang.
Isolation stemming from pandemic prompted a “noticeable shift” in how some dog owners view their pets, company co-founder Regina Haymes told NJ Advance Media.
“Everybody was getting on each other’s nerves. Everybody was feeling down, and the pets were their constant companions,” Haymes said.
“The days of buying the cheapest food on the shelf, and washing them with Dawn or whatever dish soap is on there, is gone,” she added.
Pricing options for K9 Resorts boarding range from $54 to $85 per day, depending on the market size of the suite and related offerings.
Boarding rates at the Morris Animal Inn range from $69 to $92 for dogs and $52 to $69 per cat
Morris, speaking with NJ Advance Media last week at the Morris Animal Inn’s Montville location, offered a rebuttal to those who might say this all seems like a little much.
The inn has room for 100 dogs and 20 cats at a time.
“The pets have become part of our family, and they’re an extension of our family, and there’s an emotional connection there, too,” Morris said.
“We’re treating them more like our children these days. They’re important to us. We want the same experiences, positive experiences. It’s about their health and their emotional well-being and not just making sure the basics are cared for,” she added.
Luna Bella would seem unlikely to have any complaints.
Fales said she hadn’t planned on getting a dog but fell in love upon viewing Luna Bella, then known as Liberty Bell, on the website of an animal shelter in Tennessee. Luna was a very young puppy when she was rescued from the streets by the shelter, along with her mother and two siblings.
Fales got a friend to join her on the drive to Tennessee. Luna Bella was 7 months old when she arrived in Parsippany, July 25, 2020.
Upon learning of the Morris Animal Inn, Fales began bringing Luna Bella to Morristown on Tuesdays and Fridays, her busy days at work. On other days, she walks with her dog up to 6 miles.
“Moon is high-energy. She’s a bit of an Alpha. I wanted her to realize other dogs weren’t a threat to her in any way, and have fun,” Fales said.
Fales said she booked Luna Bella overnight for the first time upon attending her 1981 class reunion at Parsippany High School.
She had a dog as a child, and when her family went on vacation a neighbor would drop in to watch out for her and provide food.
Now it’s a different world.
While vacationing in Hudson, New York, last weekend, text message updates from the inn kept popping up on her phone.
“How her night was, whether she was eating or not,” she said.
Bella Luna enjoyed the pool and splash pads amid New Jersey’s summer heat wave, which was underway throughout her stay.
Fales added that she didn’t opt for a doggie facial and that Bella Luna has yet to use the treadmill.
“I don’t know that she would’ve known what to do with that,” she said.
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Rob Jennings may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.