So many ways to pamper your pet
Andy and Klassy, neighbors in the WallStreet Tower in downtown Kansas City, have been celebrated with cocktail parties.
Mazzie is spritzed with coconut lime conditioner and wears fancy outfits to “keep up appearances” at the Hemingway Plaza East.
Ruby sleeps on a large orthopedic day bed while her brother, Franklin, has a 6-foot-tall play castle that takes up a large chunk of his family’s living room.
These are not socialites or children of the affluent. They are just a few of Kansas City’s pampered pooches. Except Franklin: He’s a cat.
“I’ve never done this math. It’s going to startle me,” says Penny Hardman when asked how much money she spends on Ruby, a Great Dane, and Franklin, a Persian.
After tallying up the outlay for day care, grooming, gourmet dog food from Canada and other assorted treats and accoutrements, she estimates that she and husband Luke Hurd spend $350 a month on their pets.
“We just like to light our money on fire and watch it burn,” Hardman says, laughing sheepishly. “It’s important to me that they be happy, because they make me so happy.”
Dr. Dave McGee, a Platte City chiropractor, estimates that he and his partner, Mark Sappington, a lawyer, spend just as much on Andy, their 15-year-old bichon frise. A couple of years ago, they commissioned an artist in Denmark to cross-stitch a portrait of Andy. It cost $5,000.
The amount of money Americans spend on pets continues to steadily grow. American Pet Products Association estimates that Americans spent $69.36 billion on pet products and services last year. That’s $2.6 billion more than 2016, and up from $41.2 billion — a whopping 68 percent increase — just a decade ago.
More and more pet owners want their fur babies to live like they do, and the market has responded. Hence products like The Pet High Chair, which clips to the edge of a dinner table so Fido can sit eye-level with the family at mealtime, and apps like Wag! and Rover that allow dog owners to schedule dog walkers and dog sitters, similar to Uber. Last year venture capitalists bet on their success by pouring more than $200 million into both apps, according to Bloomberg Technology.
The Kansas City area appears to be keeping pace with the national trend. Yelp shows more than 240 dog groomers and at least five dozen day care and boarding facilities in the greater Kansas City area, and that’s not including pet sitters and dog walkers who don’t advertise their services.
Customized service is big. It’s not unusual for the staff at The Pet Ranch in Olathe to ask people what temperature their pets prefer in their boarding kennels.
“We keep smaller dogs in the middle, which is warmer, has more insulation and is covered with blankets,” says Makailyn Gilliam, customer service manager.
Extras while boarding including pupsicle frozen treats, nail trims and rubber Kong toys filled with peanut butter to keep them busy when not playing.
“We also have cuddle time where a kennel staff member goes into the stall and hangs out with them and gives them love and attention,” Gilliam says.
There are also pet boutiques that sell everything from hand-knit sweaters, local sports jerseys and rain slickers to non-alcoholic “Bowser” beer and iced gourmet cookies from Canada that look like something for a chichi baby shower … only for dogs.
Tail Waggin in the Crossroads offers a selection of organic, farm-to-bowl pet foods including Orijen, which costs up to $112.99 for a 25-pound bag of dog food. And it sells. Only one bag of a certain variety of Orijen remained one recent afternoon.
When Gia Trapani opened Simply Grooming by Gia on West 39th Street a few years ago, she knew she would be filling a need in midtown. But business has exceeded her expectations. She has customers booked through the rest of the year for regular grooming appointments in her posh, colorful salon, which looks like it jumped off a Pinterest board.
And yet, when her partner Jen Orton suggested selling high-end dog food, Trapani balked.
“Now, I would say it makes up 30 percent of our net revenue,” she says.
People who pamper their pets realize that their lifestyle can seem a bit crazy. But they don't care. They're in love.
And their indulgences go beyond just the monetary, sometimes to their own surprise.
Brad Harrah, onsite manager of The Hemingway condominiums , never wanted a dog, especially not a tiny one like a teacup Chihuahua. But there he sat one afternoon with Mazzie perched on his desk, in a cushy dog bed wearing a chunky olive turtleneck sweater.
With a bit of urging, Harrah changed her into her Valentine’s outfit — a hot pink sweater onesie. Mazzie sits in a booster seat when riding to work in Harrah’s car and can sometimes be found nestled in a pooch pouch, a small bag slung over his shoulder. Sometimes Mazzie sits on his shoulders while he works.
A friend brought Mazzie along when he came to visit Harrah last summer.
“I was taking care of her most of the time and officially adopted her Sept. 1,” he says. “I host karaoke, and some of the regulars did throw me a puppy shower.”
The residents of The Hemingway, he says, fuss over Mazzie and buy her gifts.
Divine Aquino of Kansas City has had Klassy, a shih tzu mix, since she was in college 11 years ago.
“She was the remnants of a college relationship,” says Aquino. “She was the best thing I got out of it.”
Mazzie dines on fresh meat and vegetable meals cooked by Aquino once a week. She is groomed at Simply Grooming by Gia every three weeks, sometimes with a lavender scented mud-bath and always with a bow on her head.
“Sometimes I take it off, and when neighbors see her, they ask ‘Is that Klassy or not?’ " Aquino says. "It’s her signature look. Her hair cuts are scheduled for the whole year already.”
At $45 to $55 a pop, that comes to more than $800 a year … just for grooming. Sometimes, Aquino forgoes manicures so Klassy can look pretty.
“If you’re looking for borderline ridiculous, it’s us,” Aquino says. “But we love it and won’t change a thing about it.
“For her last birthday — this is another level of crazy, I guess — we found a heart murmur on her, and we decided to do a birthday party for her. I had a buffet table with cupcakes for the dogs, and cocktails and appetizers for the people. A photographer took family portraits with dogs. Instead of presents we asked for donations to KC Pet Project. We raised quite a bit of money and dog food and stuff. Even people who didn’t have dogs came and they were excited.”
Hardman notes that Franklin "might be a cat technically, but really he is kind of my best friend. He turned 3 on April 27, which is two days after my birthday."
He sleeps between Hardman and Hurd at night, while Ruby, the Great Dane, sleeps on the daybed, a gift from Hurd's parents.
"They think of her as their grand-dog, I guess,” Hardman says.
This seems to be a trend as well: parents of pet owners spoiling the pet. Several people noted how their mothers send care packages to their dogs.
“Franklin and Ruby are basically our kids," Hardman says. "We have friends who are in the same boat, with no kids and animals. We were sitting around one day talking about our respective doggie day cares. Then we stopped and said, ‘Do you realize that we’re like the people with kids who say, ‘Oh you have to get them into Pembroke.’ … Really we’re the same.”