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Lap Of Luxury

Your pet doesn’t know we’re in a recession. Here are five ways to give your best friend the red-carpet treatment.

By John Chandler May 19, 2009 Published in the February 2009 issue of Portland Monthly

Even before Men’s Health magazine announced in 2007 that Portland is “park heaven with the most dogs per resident,” and before Forbes the same year ranked us No. 2 among pet-friendly cities in America, we knew Portlanders were crazy for their four-legged friends. Evidence of our affection is everywhere: consider William Wegman’s dog-bowl art installation in the North Park Blocks or the Oregon Humane Society’s “Pet Cam,” which lets cat-deprived cubicle jockeys peek in on the antics of frolicking felines. In fact, according to our recent online pet survey, Portlanders simply don’t skimp when it comes to lavishing attention (including expert massages) on their companions. Extravagant? Perhaps. But the unconditional love of a cat or dog? Priceless.

1. The Suite Life

You don’t have to be Paris Hilton to ensure that your dog gets treated like hotel royalty. The Hotel Vintage Plaza—home of resident canine greeter Georgie the Havanese (pictured)—has a posh package for the traveling terrier (or even the Great Dane on the go). The Plaza offers dog-friendly rooms (Charlize Theron and her cocker spaniel slept here!), complete with luxurious pet beds and gift baskets of premium swag, including a fashion-forward collar and gourmet truffle treats from the Bone-Jour GourMutt Bakery and Boutique in West Linn. For $25 more, the hotel will throw in a massage to help your hound unwind. After all, a relaxed dog is less likely to ravage the honor bar. (Most amenities free with reservation; 422 SW Broadway; 503-228-1212; vintageplaza.com)

2. Hydrotherapy

It’s not quite a Jacuzzi, but if your dog is hurting it might be time for a tub. Dr. Bianca Shaw runs Back on Track Veterinary Rehabilitation Center, a small clinic on SW Barbur Boulevard that ministers to pets suffering from arthritis, pulled muscles, postoperative pain, or plain old tired bones with acupuncture, ultrasound, and customized home care programs. But many of Shaw’s clients see the best results with hydrotherapy. The dog is placed in a tank containing a treadmill, and water is added until buoyancy takes the strain off of limbs and joints. After twenty minutes or so, your pooch will remember what it’s like to ramble pain free. ($240 for initial exam and treatment; price for services varies; 9045 SW Barbur Blvd, Ste 130;503-546-8995; backontrackvetrehab.com)

3. Deep-Tissue Massage

So why would Rex need a massage? Same reason you do: occasional flare-ups of muscle and joint pain, and to improve his physical well-being. Thanks to her sunny demeanor, skillful digits, and earnest devotion to animals, Rubi Sullivan (shown) from Heal Animal Massage Therapy was rated the top masseuse in our survey. She rubs down between ten and twenty pets per week. One might think such treatment is reserved for upper-crust owners intent on spoiling their beasts, but Sullivan, a certified practitioner, estimates that around 80 percent of her clientele are working-class owners who’ve noticed something wrong with their pet’s gait. (Arthritis is a common problem in older dogs.) Bonus: she’s mobile and can tend to your friend, whether feline or canine, in the living room under your watchful gaze. ($60 for a one-hour consultation and massage; 503-380-4487; healnw.com)

4. Psychic Reading

Dog depressed? Cat crabby? It’s not unusual for a pet to exhibit signs of emotional discontent and stress that can’t be sorted out with bully pizzles or catnip mice. A short consultation with animal intuitive Bridget Pilloud from Pets Are Talking could reveal any number of reasons for the ennui, including the usual suspects (not enough walks, a case of the winter blues, or a bad review of that bargain-brand pet food you decided to try). Pilloud says she can establish silent communication with an animal simply by looking at its picture, as long as she has its name and description. She’s connected with critters as large as an elephant and as tiny as a stick bug (who, she says, replied “don’t talk so loud” to her psychic query). During her four years in the intuition business, Pilloud has found that her decidedly uneccentric manner is usually enough to put skeptics at ease. “There’s really nothing mystical going on,” she says. “It’s an exchange of energy between the animal and myself that I have the ability to translate.” (Starts at $25 for a fifteen-minute reading; 503-929-6760; petsaretalking.com)

5. Four-Star Meals

Dogs cannot thrive on kibble alone. And, if you ask Cherish Blake, the culinary mastermind behind Dining for Dogs, she would advise you to leave the dry food in the cupboard, as many brands contain filler ingredients that are difficult to digest. Blake and her husband, Chris, have been providing fine dining options to the canine community for nearly two years, serving up such unlikely entrées as chili, spaghetti, and beef stew (hold the excess salt and butter) for growling gourmets. Prepared and packaged by the couple, the ready-to-serve meals are available locally at LexiDog Boutique & Social Club, though Blake is most in demand as a caterer for special occasions. Last Thanksgiving, sixty-four customers placed orders for turkey, stuffing, and green beans to make sure their dogs felt included in the feasting. It’s definitely a luxury, but Blake has seen her own dogs thrive on such highbrow chow. “All three of my dogs have more energy than I can handle,” she says. “And trips to the vet are seldom.” (Entrées $4.50–7.50, meal packages $24–34; 503-888-2719; diningfordogs.com)

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