Not only is Louie a beloved family member, but he also works as spokesdog for my bow-tie business, The French Bulldog. He travels with me to pet expos around the country, and recently our family had a chance to combine business with a stop at Walt Disney World. This meant Louie would need to be boarded while we were at the park.
I’d never boarded a dog before, so I was a little nervous about that and also about Louie’s strong separation anxiety. We chose to board at Best Friends Pet Care, the boarding facility most used by Disneygoers and the only one located on Disney property.
Upon arrival at Best Friends, staff checked Louie for fleas. If fleas are detected, flea medication is administered before a dog can stay. I like this. Louie was flea free because I had applied flea protection before heading to Florida. I didn’t want to bring home a souvenir of this type and can appreciate that the kennel is trying to minimize sharing.
Louie was shaking from fear while being checked for fleas, and I know he suspected that I was about to leave him with strangers while I was off for a day of fun. I trusted the staff, who were very friendly and helpful, so I knew Louie would be in good care. However, when I picked up him up at the end of our first day, Louie was clearly traumatized. For the first time ever, he didn’t jump all over me and give me kisses, but instead tried running past me to just get out of the kennel and back to the safety of the car.
I’d never seen him like this before. He stresses when he’s separated from me, even inside our own home. I betrayed his trust and felt like dirt. The worst part was that I’d have to take him back the next day. His loyalty is greater than that of any dog I have ever had, but I was afraid that I had damaged that with a single day at a boarding facility.
The next day, I took a shirt I’d worn the previous day (and hadn’t washed) for him to sleep with. I should have done this the first day, but figured it’s better to be prepared a day late than not at all. I wanted to help ease Louie’s anxiety as much as possible. Imagine my surprise when he wiggled all over with delight when he met the Best Friends Pet Care staff that morning! Good to know that the dog was comfortable with the people and facilities and had just suffered an extreme bout of separation anxiety because I’d left him. Clearly, he felt more confident the second day, knowing that I’d be coming back for him.
I’m not sure I can give a more glowing review than my dog’s reaction the second day, given his experience the first day with his separation anxiety. Needless to say, we absolutely loved Best Friends Pet Care, and should we ever find ourselves in the situation of having a dog in the Orlando area needing to be boarded, we’ll certainly use it again.
During my dog’s stay there, the manager gave me a tour of the facilities to show me what is available. In addition to boarding dogs, it also has a cat room and will house any companion animal except primates and venomous pets. There was a guinea pig being checked in as I was there. “Everyone travels,” explained his owner, who was also boarding two dogs.
The cat room has private condos for kitties. Each has a separate, darkened potty area, and the condos range from one to four “bedrooms” for the cats, stacking on top of each other so the cats can climb up into them and feel comfortable at whatever level they’re accustomed to viewing the world. Cats get private, one-on-one play time if they’re boarding for more than one day.
Dog owners have many options to choose from. There are all-indoor kennels, each with a separate potty area so dogs don’t have to soil their sleeping area, or you can upgrade to a variety of indoor-outdoor kennels.
The Villas are quieter, indoor-outdoor kennels with a paved outdoor run and two beds, one elevated and one hammock-style. They have TVs in the rooms for the dogs — playing the Disney channel, of course. Louie had this type of room, and was intrigued by the television. (It’s not something we have on at home very often.)
There are also four VIP Suites available to reserve, and they include all the Villas offer plus a real-grass potty area, play equipment in the paved section of the outdoor run, and a private off-leash doggy park reserved just for dogs in the suites. In addition, dogs who stay in the Suites get all the perks available for owners to purchase a la carte in the Basic or Villa kennels, such as grooming, massage, one-on-one cuddles, storytime, and extra outdoor walks.
In addition, Doggy Day Camp is available for those who work in the Orlando area or are staying for an extended time. This is an indoor, all-play area for dogs, with a two-hour break for lunch and a nap. New dogs must be slowly introduced to the daily pack of campers to be sure they get along well, which is why this isn’t an option for dogs being boarded for just a few days or a week.
I was especially impressed that there were facilities for dogs whose owners forgot vaccine records. Everyone has oops moments, and Best Friends Pet Care doesn’t believe that your vacation should be ruined because you can’t board your dog. These dogs are kept in a separate room, and owners must return to walk them a minimum of every six hours throughout the day.
The facility has a full kitchen and can accommodate any diet your pet is on. They’ll even cook real “human” food if that’s what your dog is accustomed to eating, so raw diets or special diets aren’t going to be a challenge. A laundry facility is utilized heavily, as the staff washes all bedding (which they provide, to minimize fleas coming into the kennel); grooming facilities are on premises; and an off-leash park is out back, which features a large shaded area, two different sized dog-bone-shaped pools, and a water feature.
In addition, pet owners can choose to add options a la carte to any room package they choose for their best friend. Every pet owner and every budget can be accommodated, and the staff will make sure your dog is comfortable and well cared for. I know firsthand that even if your dog is hesitant about leaving you, he’ll be well taken care of in your absence.
Best Friends recommends preparing your pet for boarding by making sure all vaccines are up to date and having flea medication recently administered. Remember that dogs feel more comfortable in smaller spaces when frightened or uncomfortable, as this is their natural “denning” instinct. A very large and roomy kennel may be your first choice, but might not best for your dog. Be open to suggestions by staff; they know dogs and have your pet’s best interest at heart. (They suggested Louie’s upgrade to the Villa, knowing that such a timid dog would do better in a more private area.) Packing a piece of clothing that smells like you was the suggestion of Best Friends and helps your dog feel at home while you are gone. You’re also welcome to bring one or two of your dog’s favorite toys.
Quality: A+. The facilities and staff at Best Friends are definitely up to Disney standards.
Customer Service: I’d give them a four paws up, as the staff went above and beyond in making both Louie and me feel comfortable in our stay there. Watching staff interact with other guests, I know they weren’t just trying to impress me. Good customer service is what they offer everyone.
Cleanliness: Definite A+. While all licensed kennels must adhere to certain standards, I am very impressed with the “no outside bedding” policy to try to control flea infestation. I’m choosing parasite-free over the comfort of having a pet’s own bed. I’d hope other owners would agree.
Value: At a base price of $34 per day, and it being the only kennel in the area that allows pick up as late as 1 a.m. after the Disney park is closed, Best Friends is an excellent value for what you get.
I talked to the owner of a Dachshund who was picking up her dog at Best Friends after a week-long vacation at Disney. “I have boarded here for years. Usually our girl gets the VIP Suites, but they fill up so quickly that I’ve had to get the Villas the last few times. I have next year booked already. I wouldn’t board my dog anywhere else.”
I think this speaks volumes as to the level of care given at Best Friends Pet Resort. Even Louie gave it four paws up!