My Goldendoodle Spent a Week at Some Luxury Dog ‘Hotels.’ I Tagged Along.

By the time my goldendoodle, Steve, and I pulled up to our resting place, I was tired from the long drive and already second-guessing my plan. I felt a little better when we stepped inside the Dogwood Acres Pet Retreat. The lobby, with its elegant tiled entrance, might have passed for the lobby of any small countryside hotel, at least one that strongly favored dog-themed décor. But this illusion was broken when the receptionist reviewed our reservation — which, in addition to our luxury suite, included cuddle time, group play, a nature walk and a “belly rub tuck-in.”

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Venues like this one, located on Kent Island in Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay, didn’t exist when I was growing up in the 1980s. If you needed a place to board your dog back then, you went to a kennel, where your dog spent virtually the entire day in a small — and probably not very clean — cage. There were no tuck-ins, no bedtime stories, no dog-bone-shaped swimming pools. There were certainly nothing like today’s most upscale canine resorts, where the dogs sleep on queen-size beds and the spa offerings include mud baths and blueberry facials; one pet-hotel franchise on the West Coast will even pick up your dog in a Lamborghini. I knew Dogwood Acres wouldn’t be quite as luxurious as that, but the accommodations still sounded pretty nice. The website mentioned “distinctive décor,” “cable television” and “a large picture window overlooking an extra-large private outdoor patio.”

Steve at the Olde Towne spa, where his treatments included a mud bath, a blueberry facial and a spritz of dog cologne.Credit…Holly Andres for The New York Times

My plan was to stay with Steve at a string of dog hotels — yes, for dogs only — in the Mid-Atlantic region, not too far from where I live. Putting the plan into action had required making a series of deeply embarrassing phone calls. My requests were sometimes met with awkward silences, which would be followed by questions along the lines of: “You sure you want to do that?” I tried to explain that staying at dog hotels would take me to the heart of some questions that I’d been thinking about a lot in recent months. How did humans start catering to the whims of canines rather than the other way around? And what if, somewhere along the way, we all became a little too obsessed with our dogs?

After Steve was weighed and examined for fleas and ticks, we were escorted to our room. Everyone at Dogwood Acres was exceptionally warm and welcoming, which did nothing to lessen my fear, as I walked by them clutching my sleeping bag and rolling suitcase, that they all thought I was a total schmuck. I wanted to take each employee aside and explain that it wasn’t what it seemed, that I was actually on a very serious quest to understand something important about the American condition in the 21st century. But there was nothing to be done, because of course the only thing schmuckier than staying at a facility for dogs is trying to justify it as a quest to understand something important about the American condition in the 21st century.

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