Going to the dogs

A $19,000 bill might sound about right for a used car, a three-month vacation in Europe, or a semester at Harvard, but how about for a dog? After buying the puppy, that’s the average cost to raise a golden retriever-sized dog in Eagle County for the dog’s 12-year lifespan, calculated by Humane Society Director Char Quinn. That cost breaks down to include food, vaccinations and licensing, treats, toys and beds, training, boarding and medical expenses.

But the Vail Valley loves its dogs, and based on the number of dogs in the area, residents don’t seem to mind dishing out lots of cash for them. With a dog to human ratio of about one dog to every 10 people — Animal Services Director Natalie Duck estimated around 5,000 dogs in the valley, and according to the 2006 U.S. Census estimate there are almost 50,000 people in Eagle County — it seems the cost of having dogs isn’t deterring valley residents from buying them.

For many people, it appears dogs are a basic part of life around the Vail Valley. And the animals don’t get the short end of the stick, either. Quinn, who has lived in over a dozen states, said Eagle County is a great place to be a dog.

“People do a lot with their dogs (in Eagle County) compared to other places I’ve seen or lived,” Quinn said. “It’s very dog friendly.”

Business goes to the dogs
One thing Quinn has noticed is that more dogs go to work with their owners in Eagle County than other parts of the country. But even the dogs that stay at home can be spoiled in the valley.

For $40 per day, Walkin’ the Dog, a pet daycare business based in Avon, houses dogs whose owners don’t want them home alone. Walkin’ the Dog also runs a mobile service that picks dogs up from home, takes them on an hour-long hike, and drops them off again, for $30 per hike.

“Most of these dogs are spoiled; they’re all very well cared for,” Walkin’ the Dog owner Marisa Lahman said. Lahman started the mobile hiking business with her husband, Merrill, 10 years ago, and opened the daycare in 2002.

Lahman, who has four dogs, two cats and a cockatoo of her own, said she usually has 30 dogs at the daycare each day, and she’s boarded six or more dogs overnight. Overnight doggie guests stay at the Lahmans’ home.

“It’s like babysitting, but they don’t talk back and they just want to have fun,” Lahman said. “They hardly ever throw temper tantrums.”

And when the animals do throw temper tantrums, there are plenty of training classes available in the valley to help solve the problem.

Read the rest here.

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