Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Why Is This Dog Looking Confused?

For years, lots of dog lovers have gone without the companionship of man's best friend because, for one reason or another, they felt they couldn't keep a pet.

Now, some are getting around obstacles by sharing ownership. And to meet that growing demand, pet-lending services are proliferating.

Penny De Los Santos wanted a dog but traveled too much to care for one full time. So, she opted for the next best thing: a time-share pet.

For two years, Ms. Santos shared a mellow female Husky mix with her neighbors, who took the dog for about one week a month. They split veterinary bills and the cost of vaccinations and heartworm pills. The neighbors called the dog Nika. Ms. Santos preferred the name Monica.

"It's kind of like Monica had two lives with two families," says the 39-year-old photographer in Austin, Texas.

For travelers, some locations of Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, a subsidiary of Marriott International Inc., are offering guests the chance to take out resident dogs for hours at a time.

Some animal shelters let dog lovers swing by and take a pooch out for a day.

Short-term pet leasing, specifically, has drawn criticism that the practice frays the traditional bond between man and dog. "From a social standpoint, it's very hard on the animal," says Bonnie Beaver, professor at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine, in College Station, and a past president of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Dogs could develop abnormal behaviors such as obsessive licking and whining. Also, the practice "can make them more leery of people," Dr. Beaver says.

Source: WSJ's Anjali Athavaley reports. (Aug. 5)

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