Every dog has its day

It's a Monday morning and the Downtown Dog Lounge on Elliott Avenue is bustling with activity. For some, the beginning of the work-week signifies not only a return to backed-up roadways, unopened e-mails and new voice messages but also another painful prospect: parting with one's pet.

Elise Vincentini, the owner of the dog lounge, aims to make the separation as stress free as possible. Cheerfully she greets a steady stream of dog owners dropping off their pets for daycare, seemingly knowing the name of each customer and dog by heart.

Employees lead dogs of all breeds, shapes, colors and sizes to various spaces in the back quarters. One area doubles as a strategic center with workers poring over charts that detail vital pet information; another room serves as sleeping quarters for the overnight staff.

Back up front, a dog is being pho-tographed modeling a doggie jacket. The image will be e-mailed to the owner, who had requested a jacket earlier in the morning but didn't have time to select the correct size or style. A simple confirmation with the click of the mouse and the jacket will be waiting, along with the dog, for pickup that afternoon.

This type of special touch is what, according to Vincentini, sets her business apart from other dog-care providers.

"We have 42 employees," she explains. "A human being is always within an arm's distance of the dogs, and the level of customer service that we provide is very high."

According to Vincentini, dog owners dropping their pets off for the first time are apt to call in several times to make sure everything is OK. After a few days, however, they tend to become more relaxed and the calls taper off.

Vincentini was inspired to open a pet-care business when she had difficulties finding a suitable option to board her own dogs, a German Pointer and a Weimaraner.

"My dogs didn't like the small kennels, and I always had anxiety about leaving them overnight," she says. "I decided to start this business because I wanted to create an atmosphere that is comfortable and homey."

The space is comfortable and homey not only for the dogs but for the owners as well. The lobby area features a coffee bar, sofas and a big-screen television.

Vincentini, who also owns the Downtown Dog Lounge in Belltown, opened the Elliott Avenue branch this past November. The Belltown location was so popular that it was filled to capacity, and Vincentini saw a strong demand for dog care services in the Queen Anne area.

"One day I was sitting at a coffee bar in Queen Anne at 6 a.m. and was amazed at the large number of people walking their dogs," she says. "I thought that our services would be welcome in this neighborhood."

Elizabeth Bacher, who owns a Golden Retriever named Babe, uses the doggie daycare three days a week. She is grateful that she can go about her daily routine without having to worry about Babe being taken care of properly.

"I know that the people working there love dogs," says Bacher, "and they have become part of Babe's extended family. She gets exactly what she needs, including a lot of attention."

The dog lounge provides a variety of other services be-sides daycare. Overnight lodging, including walks, filtered water and organic treats, is available for $37 a night. Grooming options such as herbal baths, teeth brushing and nail trims - "pawdicures" - are also offered.

And would you believe ... wedding services. For those heading to the altar, an employee will walk the proud pooch up the aisle and then pet-sit at the reception.

Vincentini has noticed that the practice of pampering dogs has lately become more extravagant. She attributes this trend to several factors.

First, people are waiting longer to get married, and when they do marry, they tend to wait a few years before having children. She notes that singles with high incomes and partners with double incomes and no children can afford luxuries for their pets.

Secondly, she believes Hollywood plays a large role. "I hate to give Paris Hilton credit for anything," laughs Vincentini, "but she made it chic to pamper and accessorize dogs."

Some of the accessories she has on offer at the Downtown Dog Lounge include Gucci collars and designer carrying bags created specifically for hauling dogs.

Although these types of products ostensibly are made for dogs, it is the owner who enjoys the social cachet. A prime example of both pet and master sharing a special treat is the annual dog luncheon at The Ruins, a private dining club in Queen Anne. Once a year, owners are invited to bring along their furry friends for a lunch. This year's menu features stuffed peppers for humans and homemade dog biscuits for canines. The event, which will be marking its 10th anniversary this year, has been wildly successful with up to 150 dog owners and their pets attending the luncheons.

Seattle has long been a dog-friendly city, and Vincentini doesn't see this trend changing anytime soon. In fact, she hopes to open up several other dog lounges within the next few years.

"People in this area are extremely committed to their dogs and making sure they are well taken care of," she says. "It's rewarding to work with people who really care about their dogs."

Downtown Dog Lounge is at 1405 Elliott Ave. W. Phone: 206-282-DOGS Web site (includes puppycam!): www.downtowndoglounge.com/queenanne.htm

[[In-content Ad]]