As a vet I completely understand why someone might have to rely on a kennel to manage their dogged lives. Not every dog nor every home is amenable to a pet-sitter’s ministrations. Friends and family can be flaky or non-existent. I understand.

Where I live there are NO high-end kennels. I`ve even considered opening one, given my vet degree and avocational drive. What I lack is funds. ( I’m open to investors should you have cash to throw my way.) The majority of my area’s kennels are dirty, out-dated, kennel-cough breeding, tick-ridden facilities. (I’m so going to get into trouble for saying this.)

How about vet hospitals? After working at several hospitals that boarded pets I swore I’d never again work in one that did. Even in the nicest, supposedly spa-themed vet environments, the pets are inevitably exposed to the sickies, stuck in loud runs, walked by harried staff needing to get back to the hospitalized cases, etc. I’m sure it’s not like this everywhere but boarders at vet hospitals almost never get the attention they deserve. (Not to mention a separate air-handling unit from that which flows through the sick wards—an essential, IMHO.)

Why am I so critical? Because I, too, suffer from the where-do-I-leave-my-dog-when-I-go-out-of-town syndrome. Where do I leave her? Home is not home for her without me—she comes with me everywhere. My parents have a pool—French bulldogs don’t swim. It depresses me to leave her at work—who will love her in the evening? Leave her at a kennel? In Miami? No way! What’s a devout pet lover to do?

Akin to leaving children behind, the process of traveling becomes far more guilt-ridden when we leave our pets. Are you one of those people who shows off your pet pics to your airplane row partner? Me, too. How embarrassing!

What would it take to find a place ideally suited to my pet? Here’s my list:

1-Separate dog and cat facilities (no barking dogs in earshot of cats).

2-Noise dampening indoor spaces so dogs don’t lose their hearing while they’re boarded (this does happen, you know).

3-Non-communicating indoor spaces (no confined nose-to-nose interactions possible).

4-No indoor rooms with more than ten roommates per space (limit transmission of pathogens).

5-Outdoor dog play several times a day with roommates only (no dogs from other rooms).

6-One full-time, dedicated staff member per 20 boarders.

7-Strict flea and tick policy upon entry (mandatory pre-stay inspection; parasitacides only if absolutely necessary).

8-No unnecessary vaccine requirements (DHPP and rabies annually? Come on, it’s 2006—we know better).

9-At least two dedicated isolation wards for puppies or boarders flagged for potential infection.

10-On call veterinarian and one certified technician on duty for daily physicals (part-time is OK).

11-Comfy sleepy spaces with clean bedding.

12-Separate air-handling units for every 20 boarders.

13-Cool outdoor environment or indoor play area.

14-Online visual access to pets for concerned parents.

15-Staff on-site 24-hours.

OK so this is my dream kennel. What would that cost per night, you ask? I don’t know but I’m willing to pay at least $75 a night for something that comes anywhere close to this. At that price it makes me think twice about going out of town. But at least it offsets my reluctance to travel otherwise.

Mini four-posters and home-cooked meals? Bone-shaped pools and Animal Planet 24-7? Victorian exteriors and manicured grounds? Bed-time stories? No thank you. I tend to think these comforts are superfluous gimmicks geared towards parents, not pets. If I want perks I’ll hope for hurricane-proof windows and an outdoor misting system.

Ultimately, what I want for my dog is personal attention, health and safety. But then I’m a vet so perhaps my priorities are a bit skewed.

What would it take to make YOU comfortable leaving your beloved at a kennel?