Reporter: Noreen Turyn | Videographers: Jemon Haskins, Brian Whitesell
Amherst County, VA - Some of you may have winter vacations coming up, but for you animal lovers, it can be heartbreaking when you can't take your pet with you. If you can't bear the thought of a kennel, there's a unique kennel in Amherst County that may put your mind at ease. It has many of the comforts of home, and feels like you've sent your loved one on vacation too.
"Hey babies! Who wants to come up to play, who wants to come up to play?" Miriam Fields-Babineau says her kennel is like sending your pet child to camp.
"My philosophy is dogs get to be dogs. They are not locked up, they're not kept in cages. They're allowed to enjoy themselves. Get attention, play with other dogs," says Fields-Babineau.
Welcome to Shady Mountain Pet Retreat, where dogs rule and cats... well they rule too. It is a dream come true for Fields- Babineau, who found a farm in Amherst County six years ago, and built the kennel she always wanted.
The dogs get to come and go from their suites into the play yard all day long if they want. And yes they're suites, not cages, with plenty of room.
"This is dedicated to all of the deer on the property," Fields- Babineau says as she opens a door. Each one has its own theme, elevated beds, sunlight -- even ceiling fans. The cats are kept separate from the dogs of course.
It's marketed as a luxury facility and spa.. but Fields- Babineau is adamant it's not just hype. "Just a fancy spa is one thing but that doesn't mean you're going to go back to it. Having the service that goes with that, that's the important thing. And that's what I offer."
Ed Beehler's German Shepherd Marcus is among the regular guests. Fields-Babineau is not just a kennel owner, but a professional pet trainer and expert. Beehler says she's one of few who wasn't intimidated by Marcus. "I'd say number one is her expertise, number two is her concern for the animals, her willingness to exercise them, the facilities that the animals have, they're not forced into an uncomfortable environment, it's very much a homey place to stay."
And they do get personal attention.. Fields-Babineau gets to know each and every guest... something that puts the pet parents at ease. "They're all well cared for they get lots of attention, training if they want it. They also can go on hikes in the woods," she says.
But as you might expect, it's more expensive than some of the other kennels. Ed Beehler feels it's worth the price. "No, it's not cheap, but these are our kids, and for my wife it's peace of mind and that's worth a lot there."
Full boarding is $40 a day. If you want training too, it's $60 a day. You provide your pet's own food. If they stay four or more days they get full spa treatment at no charge-- bathing, ear cleaning and a pedicure! And you can see updates on your pet online while you're away.