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Treating your bitch like a lady

kevin klaus/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Graduate student Gloria Nieto likes to spoil her dog, Honey May, by dressing her up and having birthday parties with special-order cakes.
By Orli Ben-Dor
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, January 15, 2004
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Meet Honey May Nieto. She's petite and very well-behaved. She doesn't dress up all the time, but when she does, it's with a cute sweater or hat. If it's casual, maybe a logo tee from Cheesecake Factory or the UA. She's very quick on her feet, competing in a race and placing fourth - very impressive for a first-time racer. She's close with her family despite a Phoenix to Tucson distance.

"She's like my daughter," Gloria Nieto, UA graduate student studying public health, said of her Chihuahua, Honey May.

Honey May celebrated her first birthday Aug. 29. Celebrated, however, does not mean she simply had her first birthday. She celebrated it. Nieto threw Honey May a birthday party inviting Honey May's family and friends over, totaling six dogs and a bunch of humans.

On the menu was a peanut butter cake from a dog bakery in Phoenix for the canine attendees and a human-friendly cake donning a picture of Honey May for Nieto and her friends.

Call it high maintenance, call it spoiling, call it cute or call it ridiculous, for many, having a pet no longer means dumping dry dog food in a bowl and taking Fido for a short walk.

Here in Tucson, any pet can benefit from the pet health food store, enjoy a spa treatment, head to day care for some same species company and even spend the night in an amenities galore hotel.

"I think pets are a wonderful thing," said Deborah Melanga, manager of the 4044 N. Oracle Road Holistic Animal Care Shoppe. "They give so much to us without any discrimination."

Besides ditching the big brand pet foods and traditional veterinary medicine, pet owners can indulge their pets in other ways.

At the PetsHotel, which caters to dogs and cats, owners can call their pets and talk to them with a special speakerphone system set up at the hotel.

"We have some people who call twice a day to check on their animal while it's here," Wendy Bennett, manager of PetsHotel, said.

But being "overzealous" about one's pet, Bennett said, is not unusual.

Many owners will show up with clothes, toys, beds and even special foods.

"Believe it or not, we have a lot of owners that bring in vegetables to add to their food. Carrots and green beans are real popular ones. They think they need to eat them. We don't charge people extra for doing that. It makes them feel better," Bennett said.

If it's luxury you're looking for, Bennett suggests booking rooms early. Window views, especially for cats, book quickly. The colorful wallpapered private suites, ringing up at $27 per night for dogs, that come with a bed and even cable television tuned to the Animal Planet station were sold out for the holidays months in advance.

But for the college student who may not have the dough to spend putting a pet on a pedestal, remember what Deborah Melanga said.

"They give so much to us without any discrimination."

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