WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Soft music plays in the lobby as guests check in at the front desk. Chandeliers dangle from the ceilings of suites, where visitors lounge on memory-foam beds and watch cable on flat-screen TVs. Blueberry facials, Brazilian waxes and aromatherapy baths are among the treatments available in the gleaming spa.
This new, 130-room Palm Beach County resort was designed to feel like the Breakers or the Four Seasons, with one key difference: Itas for cats and dogs. Called the Posh Pet Hotel, it provides pampered pets amenities and services similar to those enjoyed by their two-legged best friends, bringing a new meaning to being "in the dog house."
"People are like, 'Wow, I would stay here,'" said owner Lincoln Baker. "People literally want to stay here."
The hotel, opened in April in West Palm Beach, joins a handful of others in South Florida that offer super-luxe accommodations for cats and dogs. Forget chain-link fences or long stays inside a kennel a dogs that shack up in these digs get treated to oversized suites and hours of entertainment, whether theyare there for doggie day care or overnight stays.
Dog pools with water fountains are among the offerings at the Lauderdale Pet Lodge, in Fort Lauderdale. A fitness center with personal trainers who aoffer expertise and assist guests with achieving their goalsa is one of the features at Pompano Beachas Chateau Poochie. And rooms with private patios are available at Lake Worth-based Barkers Hotel & Parrington Inn.
Across the country, people are spending more and more on their pets. Last year, more than $58 billion went toward food, veterinary care, boarding and other expenses in the U.S., according to research by the American Pet Products Association. This year, it's expected to surpass $60 billion.
That people are so willing to splurge is a reflection of changing attitudes toward pets, said Carmen Rustenbeck, CEO of the International Boarding and Pet Services Association.
Dogs have gone "from the backyard into the doghouse, from the doghouse into the house and into the family," she said.
They now have birthday parties, costume parties and even weddings.
"We've really sort of incorporated these pets into our lives, and the more human characteristics we give them, the more we want them to be treated the way we want to be treated ourselves," said Rustenbeck, of Colorado Springs, Colo. "When we look for a room for ourselves, we look for the best we can afford. So now we do the same with our pets."
Sofia Petris, who takes her 2-year-old Maltese, Maximus, to the Posh Pet Hotel for doggie day care a few times a week, explained the phenomenon like this: With her two kids grown, the little white pooch is now her "baby." He rules her West Palm Beach house, and when she isn't at home, she wants someone to look after him.
"Pets are the new kids," Petris said with a laugh. "What can I say?"
In designing the 13,000-square-foot Posh Pet Hotel, Baker tried to think of everything a pet parent might want. Need a driver to pick up Fido or Fluffy? No problem -- the hotel will send a Maserati, Bentley or Cadillac Escalade.
Looking to treat him to something besides kibbles and bits? You'll find filet mignon, chicken and salmon on the menu.
Still, despite the glamorous add-ons, Baker said the rates are set at a range meant to be friendly to all budgets.
Day care, which includes constant supervision by the Posh staff, costs $35 a day. Room rates range from $49 nightly for the classic suite, an orthopedic bed in a cubby-like space, to the $120-per-night presidential suite, the "wow room" that features a queen-sized bed, chandelier and complimentary belly rubs and bedtime stories.
"It's like how you can get a cheeseburger or a filet mignon," Baker said.
All rooms come with daily sheet changes, and all dogs spend their days outside their rooms. They romp around with other guests and hotel staff in the indoor play areas, with frequent trips to the absorbent, AstroTurf-lined outdoor area.
DOGTV, a Direct TV channel, plays on the 65 flat-screens throughout the place, showing movies including Disney's "Lady and the Tramp" and "101 Dalmatians."
For cats, there's Catlantis, a room full of multi-level "cat condos" overlooking a fish tank. It has an attached play area, Cat Cay, with towers for cats to climb on. Rates are $36 for a classic suite and $40 for a luxury one.
The facility is staffed around-the-clock, often by Baker himself, a dog lover who moved from California to Palm Beach County to open Posh Pet Hotel with his wife. At night, he reads to the dogs and takes them out for bathroom breaks.
"People really love their animals -- they're like family," Baker said. "We treat them like family."
But do all the extra perks, from spa treatments to oversized rooms, actually matter to the pets?
"You know, that's an excellent question," said KC Theisen, director of pet care issues for the Humane Society of the United States. "And it's certainly something that pet families should think about before they make an investment. ... The best path is to put your petsa well-being at the front of your mind."
Laura Laaman, president of Outstanding Pet Care, an organization that consults with pet care providers, said her clients have found major benefits in two areas: "The more interaction and activity that a pet receives, the happier and the healthier they are," she said.
That's true for Benson, an 11-month-old Bouvier des Flandres, according to his owner, Amy Sinnott. He spent a few days at the Posh Pet Hotel while she was in Washington, D.C., and she found that the extra attention made a difference.
"He was better behaved when I picked him up than when I dropped him off," said Sinnott, a police officer in West Palm Beach. "And I didn't have any of those add-ons like additional training."
Not long after, Benson checked into the hotel for the weekend while Sinnott was in Miami, and "he didnat mind one bit going back," she said, adding, "I wouldnat mind staying there myself."
Throughout the day and night, owners can check in on their pets from afar using webcams accessible on their computers or cellphones.
Petris keeps the video feed going on her laptop at the West Palm Beach body shop she and her husband run, Nickeeas Automotive Center. Customers who are used to seeing her Resort for pets, Posh Pet Hotel, in West Palm Beach, Florida, caters to cats, dogs2-year-old Maximus there watch him running around on screen.
Some tease Petris. But she said she wants Maximus to have the opportunity to socialize with other dogs. She said sheas noticed he has even made friends. And he and her sonas dog, Zeus, who go together, enjoy it a as far as she can tell.
"As soon as we open the door," she said, "they're barking and excited."