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The Critic Barks

Dog spa ratings by our canine critic

When Chicago wanted to test doggy spas, we sent Trevor, a Welsh corgi with a portfolio of neuroses. Cranky Trevor seemed the perfect candidate to pay anonymous visits to three of the area’s most luxurious pet facilities. Accompanying Trevor on each visit was his skeptical owner, hereby known as the Enabler.

On a scale of (worst) to (best)

POOCH HOTEL
2228 N. Clybourn Ave.; 773-348-2646, poochhotel.com

THE ASSIGNMENT: A 15-minute aromatherapy massage and bath ($75) at this 15,000-square-foot boarding facility and spa in Lincoln Park THE ENCOUNTER: The staff was accommodating—but, because the lobby closes from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Enabler had to leave Trevor there for the day. Dropping Trevor off was hard on both parties. Trevor shrank into himself like a little mushroom and tugged fiercely at the leash to leave. The Enabler herself had to do some deep breathing outside the hotel. Four hours later, a cheery young woman greeted the Enabler at the door with a beaming Trevor! He had been rubbed down, spritzed in expensive V.I.P. perfume from Paris, and bathed so his coat was soft and shiny. The only disappointment was the discovery that his nails had been clipped, despite a specific request not to cut them. HOURS: M-F 7-10 a.m.; pickup M-F 2-7 p.m.; Sat. and Sun. by appointment only RATES: $30 for daycare; $47 to $70 a night for overnight stays.

VERDICT: 

* * *

PARADISE 4 PAWS
10516 United Parkway, Schiller Park; 847-678-1200, paradise4paws.com

THE ASSIGNMENT: A 30-minute massage ($35) at this new 25,000-square-foot facility, which offers drop-off/pickup service to O’Hare ($14), an on-site vet, and accommodations for cats THE ENCOUNTER: From the outside, Paradise 4 Paws hardly looks like a paradise of any sort—more like a sad little motel where a disgruntled lover goes to drink in anonymity. But inside, it’s vast, clean, and festive. After a one-on-one consultation with Alexia, Trevor’s massage therapist, the Enabler watched via webcam as Alexia kneaded, rubbed, and soothed Trevor—even his tricky hindquarters, which he usually does not permit people to touch. Throughout it all, she whispered to Trevor softly; he, in turn, went limp in her hands. Afterward, he came bounding out to the lobby with his stump tail wagging. “Trevor might be a little tired today,” Alexia warned. Indeed, he snored the whole way home. HOURS: 7 a.m.-7 p.m. for daycare seven days a week; 24 hours for boarding. RATES: $20 to $32 for daycare; $47 to $75 for overnight stays.

VERDICT: 

* * *

STAY
4130 N. Rockwell St.; 773-509-0001, staydoghotel.com

THE ASSIGNMENT: A 30-minute aqua fitness session ($40) at this 30,000-square-foot center on the bank of the Chicago River. Perks include personal training and an on-site vet who specializes in alternative medicines. THE ENCOUNTER: Although aqua fitness sessions are offered for daycare guests only, a manager allowed Trevor to come in just for a swimming lesson. But when it came time for the dip, the pool’s temp—95 degrees—put off the Enabler. The staffers insisted the water was safe, the Enabler acquiesced, and Trevor was squeezed into an orange-and-blue life jacket. A young trainer then picked him up, put him in the water, and guided him as he paddled his little legs. Every few minutes, Trevor was set on the deck to have a breather and a drink of water. He was breathing heavily. Was he out of shape? Or was the water just too hot? After his lesson, Trevor seemed happy to be reunited with the Enabler. And to go home! HOURS: M-F 7 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sat.-Sun. 8 a.m.-6 p.m. RATES: $28 for daycare; $45 to $75 for overnight stays.

VERDICT: 

Photograph: Erika Dufour

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