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Doggie Day Cares Meet Rise in Pooches With Webcams, Massage Services

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | December 4, 2012 7:14am

QUEENS — It's a dog's life in Hunters Point — and more doggie day cares have been popping up lately to meet their needs.

The number of pooches in the neighborhood have swelled, and four doggie day cares are offering services ranging from dog walking, boarding and puppy-training classes to haircuts and massages to meet the growing demand.

“It’s such a young and growing neighborhood,” said Ronny Beyer, 32, who once worked as a dog walker and now owns LIC Doghouse.

“There are tons of dogs in this neighborhood,” said Beyer, who opened his place approximately two years ago on Vernon Boulevard. “A lot of young couples and professionals are moving in and... before they decide to have babies, they have dogs.”

In the area, where the population has almost doubled in the last decade — from 6,000 in 2000 to 11,000 in 2010, according to Census data — newcomers often arrive with pets.

The new high-rises that keep popping up along the waterfront are dog-friendly and so are many of the restaurants along Vernon Boulevard. There are even photographers in the area who specialize in dog photography.

Pooches also enjoy an updated dog run on Vernon Boulevard, and two vet offices — one of which opened only a few weeks ago.

And then there are the doggie day cares, which some residents joke outnumber hair salons.

One shop has cameras that allow pet owners at work or on vacation to watch their pooches being pampered from their laptops or phones. Another center uses a special pet shampoo developed from NASA research.

With so many dogs coming to the neighborhood, doggie day care services are necessary, the shops' owners say.

“The services that we offer are not a luxury anymore,” said Lidia Lozovsky, owner of Dog Island City, the neighborhood’s first doggie day care, which opened in 2009 on 50th Avenue, near the 7 train station. "It's a necessity."

She added that 80 percent of her customers leave their dogs with her because they have no choice.

“People are going out, or for vacation,” she said. “They also can’t take their dogs to work.”

Alex Woltering, 27, who works as an analyst for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, says his French bulldog, Roux, spends a couple of days a week at a day care.

“When Roux plays during the day with other dogs, she is not all that crazy when we get home,” he said.

Jason Roggow, office manager at City Vet, a Long Island City veterinary clinic established in 2007, said that of the 3,000 animals on his database, approximately half are pets from Hunters Point.

“It's a recession-proof business,” said Bruce Barlin, the owner of Pooches Sport & Spa, referring to doggie day cares.

As the Hunters Point pooch shops compete for customers, they offer an increasingly wide variety of services and prices.

Basic day care can cost $25 to $35 a day. For basic grooming, owners can pay $35 to $65.

Centers also have professional groomers who specialize in pet haircuts.

LIC Doghouse offers hand-scissor “paw-dicures” and brushing with Furminator, a special tool to deal with dog shedding.

Dog Island City boasts haircut and dog massages and uses only hypoallergenic products.

Pooches Sport & Spa, located in one of the new waterfront high-rises on Center Boulevard, uses EQYSS shampoo which, the owner says, was developed from NASA research on the decontamination of astronauts. Barlin also said the product “smells like the Brazilian rainforest” and costs “$60 a gallon.”

“I use it myself,” he said.

Prices for haircuts also vary. A basic bath at Pooches Sport & Spa costs $45, for example, but the final price depends on a dog’s size and its haircut style.

“As the haircut gets fancy, the price goes up,” Barlin said.

The biggest doggie day care in the area — Camp Bow Wow Long Island City, a locally owned franchise of a chain — offers another attraction: high-speed live web cams. Owners can purchase a $2.99 application, which allows them to watch their dogs on their iPhones, said the owner, Stephen Neagus.

“People love it,” said Neagus, who said his nickname is "Top Dog." "They travel and want to be able to watch their dogs from Paris."

He said many people call and ask his staff to bring their dogs close to the camera.

“And we do that,” Neagus said.

Camp Bow Wow, which has 10,000 square feet and six large play yards, can accommodate up to 100 dogs. Its location on Austell Place seems remote compared to other Hunters Point centers, but Neagus says he provides van pick-up and drop-off service, which makes it possible to serve customers from other neighborhoods as well, including Astoria, Sunnyside and Woodside.

Perrin Salat from DOG LIC, a group of local dog owners that has about 400 members on Facebook, said dog owners in Hunters Point don't mind shelling out a few extra bucks to pamper their pets.

“The majority of people spend between $100 and $500 each month on food, grooming, day care, dog walkers and boarding,” said Salat, quoting results from a survey conducted among the group members in 2010.

"Everybody has the services they need, with the continued growth in the area and massive number of units coming in the next several years to Hunters Point South," Salat added. "Those type of services will just continue to grow.”