Luna Bella is living her best dog life.
The 2.5-year-old mixed breed dog is a familiar presence at the Morris Animal Inn, which bills itself as a luxury resort and pet spa. She spent three nights at the inn’s new location in Montville last Friday while her landlord vacationed in upstate New York.
The Inn is a far cry from the traditional kennel experience long associated with boarding dogs and other pets. Options include dog facials, canine cardio sessions on modified treadmills, and splashes to beat the summer heat.
“She had a suite,” her landlady, Lin Fales of Parsippany, said of her stay.
Luna Bella – her name means “beautiful moon” in Italian – is among an estimated 23 million pets adopted by American families during the coronavirus pandemic. The increase in the number of pet owners has intensified the push towards so-called luxury care, especially for dogs, according to industry players.
The Morris Animal Inn started in Morristown in 1986 and expanded to Montville in February. It plans to open a third facility in Warren Township by the end of the year, according to company vice president Joann Morris.
Both locations offer air-conditioned suites with natural light and 3-story condos with leatherette sofas, in addition to daycare-like options.
“It’s not just about storing dogs anymore. It offers a lifestyle,” Morris said.
The Morris Animal Inn isn’t the only one growing.
K9 Resorts Luxury Pet Hotel, founded in 2005 in Fanwood, has 19 locations in 11 states, including seven in New Jersey. Its newest pet hotel opened in Iowa three weeks ago with about 15 more planned for next year, spokeswoman Cassie Gato said.
“People treat dogs like family members now. They want them to get the same love and care as they did at home, which is different from, say, 30 years ago when it was ‘just a dog.’ Now they’re somebody’s kids,” Gato said.
The luxury trend transcends dog boarding. A company that sells grooming products, Pride & Groom, debuted in New York in July 2020.
The offerings include “Mane Tame,” a waterless foaming shampoo aimed at refreshing a dog’s coat between grooming visits. Mane Tame is included in a $95 “city slicker” package that also includes a microfiber towel with hand pockets, grooming wipes, and a deodorant spritz with notes of bergamot, citrus, and ylang ylang.
The isolation resulting from the pandemic has caused a “noticeable shift” in the way some dog owners view their pets, company co-founder Regina Haymes told NJ Advance Media.
“Everyone was angry. Everyone felt down and the pets were their constant companions,” Haymes said.
“The days of buying the cheapest food on the shelf and washing it down with Dawn or any dish soap are over,” 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 that all seems a bit much.
The hostel can accommodate 100 dogs and 20 cats at a time.
“Pets are part of our family now, and they’re an extension of our family, and there’s an emotional connection there as well,” Morris said.
“We treat them more like our children these days. They are important to us. We want the same experiences, positive experiences. This is about their health and emotional well-being and not just making sure the basics are taken care of,” she added.
Luna Bella would seem unlikely to have any complaints.
Fales said she didn’t plan on getting a dog, but fell in love when she saw Luna Bella, then known as Liberty Bell, on the website of a Tennessee animal shelter. . Luna was a very young puppy when she was rescued from the streets by the shelter, along with her mother and two siblings.
Fales asked a friend to join her on the road to Tennessee. Luna Bella was 7 months old when she arrived in Parsippany on 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.
“Luna is full of energy. She’s a bit Alpha. I wanted her to realize that other dogs weren’t a threat to her in any way and just have fun,” Fales said.
Fales said she first booked Luna Bella for the night after attending her 1981 class reunion at Parsippany High School.
She had a dog when she was a child, and when her family went on vacation, a neighbor would come by to watch over her and provide her with food.
Now it’s a different world.
While vacationing in Hudson, New York, last weekend, text updates from the hostel kept popping up on her phone.
“How was her night, whether she ate or not,” she said.
Bella Luna took advantage of the pool and wading pools amid New Jersey’s summer heat wave, which was ongoing throughout her stay.
Fales added that she didn’t opt for a doggy facial and Bella Luna has yet to use the treadmill.
“I don’t know if she would have known what to do with that,” she said.
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Rob Jennings can be reached at [email protected].