"New Pet Resort offers luxurious digs for dogs, cats"
published in the "Home News" on June 21, 2006
written by David Giffey

A new pet resort opened recently near Spring Green offering, "spacious living areas with climate control, heated floors, air-conditioning...cabin suites with specialty themes, indoor and outdoor areas for relaxation and play..."

But the appealing description printed on a flier for the resort isn't intended to attract human inhabitants.  It's for your pets.  The Spring Green Pet Resort is located at S12377 Pearl Road, a short drive north of Highway 14.

"The community needed something like this," Connie Miller said recently.  She and husband Steve are proprietors of the luxury pet boarding and grooming facility which opened in January 2006.  Located in a new building on five acres, the luxury suites are nine-foot square rooms named Bucky, Regal, Jungle and Scooby, and decorated accordingly.

A Kitty Palace, with a view, is a place where "Your cat will enjoy nutritious meals, lounging, and watching the birds from their window," the brochure describes.

Further into the building are 30 chain-link kennels, each providing indoor and outdoor space.

"We built this kennel with people's pets in mind," said Steve Miller, a life-long dog trainer who said his favored sport is traditional "Schutzhund" training, a term developed in Europe in the early 1900s to test breeding programs for German shepherds.  "It means 'protection dog'," he said.

His work as a protection-dog trainer is separate but obviously related to the pet resort where animals are boarded, groomed, and trained, usually under less intense conditions and according to the wishes of their respective owners.

Miller said his work with protection dogs is conducted on property near the family house on property adjacent to the pet resort.  Talking about aspects of the work, Miller said that since 9/11, the American Kennel Club, at the bidding of the U.S. government, has developed what is called a "working dog sport" focusing on training dogs for use in military, CIA, FBI, police, and border patrol settings.

"It involves protection, high level obedience and tracking, the same as "Schutzhund," said Miller.  "I've been in the sport for 30 years."  Growing up in Madison, Miller, age 58, worked as a youngster for the Madison Retriever Club.  His profession as a dog trainer led to repeated membership on the only U.S. team, which entered, and won, international competitions, he said.  He noted membership in the United Schutzhund Clubs of America, a group sanctioned by the World Union for the German Shepherd Dog.

While the pet resort welcomes all breeds of dogs and cats, Miller's protection dog training is with German shepherds, although "any breed can do it so long as they have the drive to do it," he said.  "I'm presently working with a female dog that I'm sure will make the team," he said.  "It's difficult.  It's a lot of work."  Training of a police dog typically lasts about 14 weeks and costs $6,000 to $8,000, he added.  Additional costs and hours are involved in training dog handlers.

The atmosphere at the pet resort is cushy compared to Miller's descriptions of training police dogs.  Options available for pet owners at the resort range from simply boarding their charges while on vaction, to grooming and training, and even "doggie day care."  A typical stay is five to seven days, said Connie Miller.  Prices vary according to the level of luxury desired, the involvement of the pet owner, types of grooming and training, and extras.

Finnish born Minna Nousianen-Becher is the resort's groomer who also conducts obedience and beginning agility training for dogs whose owners intend to enter them in competitions on special obstacle courses.  She said, "I learned to groom from a professional conformation dog handler."  She moved to the River Valley after grooming dogs and cats in the Fox River Valley since 1999.  Nousianen-Becher said walking trails at the resort fulfill an often overlooked canine need for exercise.   Back home in Helsinki, she said, pet owners include walks in the routine of daily life with their pets.

Miller said business is growing in the few months since the pet resort opened its doors.   "We're keeping it open for inspection for anyone who wants to stop during business hours.  We're getting a lot of cat people.  We have a cattery."

"It seems to be picking up," he said.  "People are excited to know there is a nice facility in the Spring Green area."


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