Every doggie has its day (care)

On a typical day, Joe Kim is up at 4 a.m. and off to his job as an investment banker. His girlfriend also puts in long hours, and then there’s Bubba — home alone. But Bubba and pal Tussie are latch-key lhasas no more. Now they have doggie day care and lots of new found friends.

While the people are away, these pampered pooches play and play at Malibu’s Canine Connections, and the payoff seems doggone good.

“It’s a great idea,” says Kim. “They’re much more calm when they get home, they don’t destroy anything and they’re much more sociable with other dogs.” Dr. Dean Graulich, new head vet at the Malibu Animal Clinic, agrees, adding, “It’s great for weight loss.” Yes, the loafing and bon-bon syndrome takes its toll even on animals.

Canine Connection opened its doors in June and is shaping up to be a big hit with guilt-ridden owners who can’t bear the thought of leaving Fido at home for hours on end. “There was no place like this in Malibu,” says Dr. Lisa Newell. “Now your dogs can come here and run and be active and be with other dogs. It’s so much better than sitting at home bored all day.”

After pulling up to the center, a trail of white painted paw prints leads you to a giant palapa and a gated enclosure complete with palm trees. Inside the large dog area, you’ll find Moose the golden retriever, Jack the mixed-breed, Bob the Rhodesian ridgeback, Nikky the husky and Zoe the Rotweiler, all rolling and running with tongues a wagging. “It’s just like kindergarten,” says owner Leslie Moskowitz. “They love getting here in the morning, they love seeing their friends. They’re just like kids, they all have their games and routines.”

The day begins early for Moskowitz, about 8 a.m. Now it’s 6 p.m., and she’s waiting for the last wave of moms and dads to pick up their pets. “I’m exhausted,” she says with a sigh. “Those two chocolate Labs just run you ragged.”

In addition to the ample al fresco pen play, pooches have their pick of toys, can recline on a bed, couches and chairs, or relax in the shade of canopies.

But just like preschool, things can get out of hand. When they do, doggie day care supervisors use super-soakers to break things up. Should that fail, there’s always a time out area, where the trouble makers can reflect on improving their social skills. “We’ve had some fracases here and there, usually over toys,” says Newell. “But it’s nothing serious. Everyone is supervised by two people at all times.”

The center continues to grow in popularity. There is an expanding roster of regulars and newcomers. At $35 per day, the playtime does not come cheap. But just try telling that to Bubba. As far as he seems to be concerned, money might not buy you love, but it can buy you a little tender loving care and even a few new friends.

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