SUSAN STAMBERG, host:
On Wednesday we focus on the workplace, and today it's going to the dogs.
Daycare isn't just for kiddies anymore. In recent years, more than 1,500 day care centers for dogs have opened across the country. They offer every service from limo pickup to webcams. Some dog lovers confess they spend $6,000 or $7,000 a year on this service - that's as much as parents can pay for childcare.
NPR's Frank Langfitt reports.
FRANK LANGFITT reporting:
Genny Quarfoot, and her husband, Matt, don't really have time to care for a dog. Genny's studying for the bar, and Matt's a software salesman who's often on the road. But the couple considers Roxie, their yellow lab, their baby. So instead of leaving her cooped up at home for hours, they take her to Ana's Ark, a doggie daycare near their home outside Washington, D.C.
This morning is Genny's turn to drop Roxie off.
Ms. GENNY QUARFOOT (Dog Owner): Yes, I know, I know!
LANGFITT: Roxie wags her tail excitedly as she approaches what used to be a warehouse in a suburban industrial park.
Ms. ANNALIESE JOHNSON (Owner, Ana's Ark): How are you? Come on Princess Roxie. Come on. Good girl.
(Soundbite of dogs barking)
Ms. JOHNSON: I'm Annaliese Johnson. I'm the owner of Ana's Ark Doggie Depot here in Rockville. And we are about to go into one of our playrooms.
LANGFITT: The room is about the size of an elementary school cafeteria. As Roxie enters, several dozen dogs surround her like a Rugby scrum. They climb about on children's play equipment, including a Little Tyke sliding board they've chewed a hole in. Several staff toss balls and patrol the room with paper towels, cleaning up accidents on the tile floor.
Just like in child daycare centers, Johnson says she has to discipline aggressive behavior.
Ms. JOHNSON: Well, what we've got is a standard poodle in here, and he's basically walked into the room and decided he's going to be top dog.
Can we put George in a timeout, please? Thank you.
LANGFITT: For George, that means 15 minutes in solitary.
Ms. JOHNSON: The cameras mounted pretty close to the ceiling so it's looking down on the floor. Roxie's mom might be watching from work.
LANGFITT: What was your strategy in putting in a webcam?
Ms. JOHNSON: Well, the first strategy was marketing. I wanted to put myself above everybody else. And the second strategy is doggie daycare was so new that I think it lended an air of respectability.
Ms. QUARFOOT: And there she is, in the corner. She's been chasing the same black dog all day.
LANGFITT: Genny Quarfoot is back home, taking a study break to watch Roxie on her laptop.
Ms. QUARFOOT: I think its fun to watch, because you like to see if your dog is having a good time and that you're getting your money's worth for the day. And I actually in the beginning would do that because, obviously, when you first join you're sort of nervous. A lot of people aren't familiar with the service. So it was a comfort to me to see somebody in the room at all times like they promised.
LANGFITT: Like some elite schools, Ana's Ark requires a dog interview to make sure the animal isn't too aggressive and plays well with others.
Ms. QUARFOOT: I was like, don't blow it! I was really nervous. I brought her there and I didn't know what to expect. But they brought out two different dogs and she sort of just smelled them and they smelled her and she did fine. I mean, she wasn't timid at all.
LANGFITT: Jenny says some of her friends think she's crazy to watch Roxie on a webcam. And she knows that many people think spending thousands of dollars on daycare for a dog is excessive. But she says that knowing Roxie's having a fun and active day gives her peace of mind.
Ms. QUARFOOT: The reason I get made fun of is because, you know, it just seems like a lot of pampering for a dog. But I've been raised in a family where the dog was part of the family. It was never a dog. So yeah, we spoil her, why not? I could understand if you are budgeting that would be the first thing to go is the daycare, but if you do have the money it's a great outlet.
LANGFITT: Annaliese Johnson started Ana's Ark four years ago. She charges $30 a day, and typically cares for more than 50 dogs. Her clients tend to be young couples like the Quarfoots, or empty nesters who can afford to dote on an animal.
She says changes in society created her market.
Ms. JOHNSON: You know back in the '70s there was one parent at home. So that's the parent that put the dog in and put the dog out. In today's world, both parents work, but people still want to have dogs. So, doggie daycare has been able to give people what they want, which is companionship of a dog without needing to put in all the time.
LANGFITT: Matt Quarfoot arrives at Ana's Ark after 6:00 p.m. It's the end of a long day and he's looking forward to a quiet night with Jenny and a worn out Roxie. Roxie greets him with a lick to the face.
Mr. MATT QUARFOOT (Dog Owner): Oh, hello, baby! Did you have a good day?
LANGFITT: Matt heads home in his car with Roxie resting her head on his hand. Soon, she drops off to sleep, and begins to snore.
(Soundbite of dog snoring)
I asked Matt if the $30 today was worth it. His answer: absolutely.
Frank Langfitt, NPR News.