You’ve got a last-minute business trip, and your usual dog sitter isn’t available. Or you’ve been using the same boarding facility for a while now but haven’t been completely satisfied and want to check out new options — yet don’t know where to begin. Or you’ll be traveling with your pet and want to book from a choice of dog-friendly hotels in the city you’re visiting. Now you can find all of that and more, and even qualify for discounts, through furlocity.com, a dog owner’s counterpart to, say, Travelocity or Expedia.
The brainchild of one-time primatology researcher Amber Kirsten-Smit (she trained rhesus monkeys to use touch-screen computers) and her husband Andy, Furlocity currently lists boarding facilities, including for daycare as well as overnight, in 19 states. We checked out the two given for Massachusetts, one in Newton near Boston and one on the western side of the state by the Berkshires. The Pooch Hotel in Newton (with a five-paw rating from actual users, with all reviews posted), allows you to drop off or pick up your dog at any time of day or night — a great option for someone getting in on a late-night flight and who doesn’t want to have to wait till the next morning to go pick up her pet. It even has web-cam access so you can see how Fido is doing from afar with a virtual drop-in. But these amenities come at a price: a minimum of $50 a night. And that’s just for a standard suite (with tempered glass, the site says — no bars or metal). The cost also does not include late-night or early-morning pickup or dropoff, which requires an added fee. Furthermore, there are no outside walks. All toiletry activities have to happen in indoor turf boxes.
We were also intrigued by Camp Wagalot in Stockbridge, given a four-paw rating. The dogs are not kept in cages there, and there are 20,000 square feet of fenced-in play yards. The price tag was also attractive: $35 a night. But Stockbridge is far, near the New York State border. As Furlocity expands, so will choices closer to home. Currently, California and Texas have the most options, although that is going to change. “The operation is growing pretty quickly,” says CEO Andy Smit. “We launched in April of last year with eight boarding facilities. Now we have nearly 100 in 49 cities. The plan is to expand across the country.”
Whichever “hotel” you choose, you put in your check-in and check-out dates, just like you would for yourself, and go from there. The site is easy to use and navigate.
All boarding facilities are screened. Not only does each one listed have to be licensed, bonded, and insured, it also has to be able to handle emergencies. “If there’s not a vet on site,” says Mr. Smit, “there has to be one within five to seven miles. We realize we’re dealing with people’s ‘kids.’
“I spent about a year interning at local boarding facilities to learn the ins and outs of the business,” he adds. “I worked the front desk, cleaned the suites, played with the dogs. I exposed myself to all parts of the operation” to learn what makes a worthy facility. What Mr. Smit also learned during that process is that a lot of people don’t have friends and family around to ask questions about which are the good boarding facilities in the area if they’re moving to, say, a new state. “You can’t reach out,” he says. “That’s the reason a lot of pet owners come to the site.”
There are other benefits, too. For every 10 stays booked through Furlocity, your dog gets one night free. Once you register, there are 10 paw prints — one shaded for every booking. Another bonus is that you can upload your dog’s vaccination records onto the site so you don’t have to keep contacting your veterinarian every time you go away, one of those things that people often leave till the very last minute. “Even if you move from California to Florida,” Mr. Smit says, “the vaccination records remain stored.” It’s easy to board your dog as soon as you move into your new home.
You can upload a profile, too, so that the company can know a little about your dog and her needs up front. If she’s shy or aggressive, for instance, that will be taken into account when she’s provided with her accommodations.
There’s also the “Book a Stay, Change a Life program.” Currently, Furlocity donates a portion of its proceeds to both the Morris Animal Foundation and Labrador Harbor, a nonprofit that benefits Labrador retrievers at risk. But the company will soon make it possible for you to earmark funds from your booking for the charity of your choice — an added advantage for an already-cool concept. We give it two paws up.