NEW YORK (Reuters) - In the fashion business, designers and supermodels travel in style with their pet pugs and poodles. But if your name isn't Valentino or Eva Herzigova and your pet can't go with you on frequent trips, you may have a problem.
Consider these facts: 62 percent of U.S. households own pets -- there are more Americans with pets than children; The 2000 U.S. Census reported 82 million men and women in the United States are single, and that about 40 percent of the work force is unmarried.
Applying that formula, it stands to reason that a significant number of single business travelers have pets and routinely face the problem of finding someone to take care of them in their absence.
The solution is to do what business people are good at doing anyway -- establish a network.
Find other pet owners with similar needs, said Dr. Amy Attas of City Pets the House Call Vets, in New York.
Meredith Harper's job as vice president for private sales of Impressionist and 20th-Century art at Christie's auction house, requires her to travel "fairly extensively" within the United States and abroad to places such as England and Switzerland.
It means that for three to five days every month, she has to leave her beloved Bella, a 3-year-old shepherd mix, at home.
"She has never stayed in a kennel," said Harper, who adopted Bella from a shelter at the age of 10 weeks.
Harper considers herself lucky. Her dilemma is shared by a neighbor, whose dog Colie, a chocolate labrador-husky mix, regularly swaps stayovers with Bella.
If both neighbors need to travel at the same time, Harper's mother or brother house-sit. In any circumstances, the dogs stay in the building and their daily routines, which include an afternoon pickup by the dog walker, are largely undisturbed.
"Owners should customize care for individual pets," Attas advises. "If you have a young, active, healthy dog, the best thing is to get it involved in some kind of group daycare. Then, when you have to go out of town, it can stay there, and it's not much of a change from the regular environment."
"The local vet often has a technician or animal nurse who can come to the home and baby-sit for a fee," Attas said. "But, it is really important to leave your itinerary with whoever is caring for your pet. The traveler should be reachable or designate someone who can make any important decision regarding the pet's care."
Anitra Frazier, author of "The New Natural Cat" (Plume, $17.95) takes a novel approach -- the pet's point of view.
"If you keep to a certain schedule and then you go away, the animal, from his perspective, may decide you have been attacked and killed by predator. They don't know about flight delays or out-of-town conferences," she said.
But there are things you can do to calm them.
"I suggest leaving behind a piece of clothing you've worn -- pajamas are perfect. For a cat, familiarity breeds contentment," said Frazier, whose popular book has been newly revised and expanded and includes holistic cat care, grooming tips and solutions to common and "impossible" problems.
"If you're going to be gone three weeks or a month, it might be better to board in a home-like situation, but hopefully never in a cage. Being caged is very stressful for a cat," she said.
Frazier also advises instructing the sitter to leave the radio on a classical station, and a different light bulb burning each day so the animal gets a feeling of change and movement, not a static environment.
"We realize that many single professionals travel with their pets and that vacationing guests can't bear to leave Fido home alone," said Michelle Payer, area director of public relations, The Ritz-Carlton Hotels and Resorts of Miami.
So, Miami's newest luxury hotel -- The Ritz-Carlton, Coconut Grove, opening Sept. 20, 2002 -- has developed a dog program.
"Guests can hire the Bow Wow Butler to exercise their pet at the nearby bay front dog park, take it for a grooming with a Coconut Grove doggie spa basket (massage brush and aromatherapy shampoo) and then back to the room for poochie sushi and other cocktail hour treats," Payer said.
Doggie movies and music will be available from library.
On the "Bones 'N Bits" dog menu, one of the selections -- steamed rice, broccoli and chicken -- is called "Churchill's favorite," named for the general manager's dog, who taste-tested the items, which also include Oatmeal Kiss (crunchy oatmeal and peanut butter dog bone) and Jet Lag Cure (Iams lamb and rice-meal dry food.)
When it comes to pampering pets, no one does it like the French.
"Dogs are very welcome as are any other pets -- and free of charge regardless of their size," said Claudia Schall, public relations manager of the historic five-star Hotel Meurice on the tony Rue de Rivoli on Paris' Right Bank.
"There is no special dog menu, but room service recommends "filet de steak" or "entrecote" of an equal quality to that served in the restaurant. Chef can also add seasonal vegetables or rice in order to make a balanced meal," she said. "As soon as the guest has made a reservation, our agent will find out the age of the pet and its preferred food."
Bellboys exercise dogs in the famous Tuileries Gardens opposite the hotel, which has hosted Franklin D. Roosevelt, Queen Victoria and Salvador Dali and his pet ocelots.
In the South of France, the story is told of a frequent woman guest who accepted a glass of champagne on arrival, but turned away a crystal dish of tap water for her dog.
"Mais, non," she sniffed, "My dog drinks only Evian."
On a more practical note, earlier this year, the AAA came out with helpful advice on air travel for pets, including questions for owners to ask:
-- What is the airline's animal welfare policy?
-- Is your pet fit to fly? Dogs and cats must be at least 8 weeks old. Very old, pregnant, ill or injured animals should not fly.
-- Will the airline insure your pet?
AAA also recommends that travelers with pets reserve well in advance, if possible, tell the flight crew if your pet is in the hold so the pilot will activate the heater, and be considerate of seatmates by alerting them to your pet's presence in case they are allergic and want to change seats.
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