High-end pets mean big business for specialists

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The dogs that walk the hallowed arena of Madison Square Garden each year aren't the only ones to receive special treatment, primpy pampered pups are big business for specialists in Baton Rouge.

Many people know of businesses that offer boarding and grooming, but there are lots of other services available. The idea of catering specifically to pets and their owners' disposable incomes has boomed in the Baton Rouge area within the past 10 or 15 years.

"People are viewing their pets differently than they did even 15 years ago when we first started," said Michael Hackett, owner of Petz Plaza. "The idea behind this is we try to make it as comfortable as possible and try to mimic what you do at home."

The canine cliental at Petz Plaza enjoys the options of staying, playing, sleeping or beautifying.

"We offer daycare during the day. We offer playtime, TLC, yappy hour, baths, grooming … one-stop shopping," Hackett added.

It is one-stop shopping that includes dog beds which are "designer décor friendly" and tantalizing treats that look tasty enough to share with their human owners. Plus, if their owners are a little pressed for time, there is no need to worry because they can just call a taxi.

"Everybody knows Baton Rouge traffic is a little rough sometimes, so we'll get in traffic, pick up your dog. Take it to your vet, (take it) to us for boarding, grooming, whatever, and bring it back to you," Hackett explained.

Hackett's father, Dr. C.B. Hackett, is the resident veterinarian. In an earlier conversation, he noted the increasing percentage of pet owners more than willing to pay the cost of microchips, signing up for pet insurance policies and even pet dental care that can cost as much or more than their "human brothers or sisters."

Those services make the pets ready for their "close up" and a painting by portrait artist Simon Baxter, who is rather a natural talent and not a "trained" artist. Baxter found his niche creating colorful but life-like paintings.

"When I first started, I didn't know if I could get the colors right, true to life, so I thought I'd just go wild, go crazy and no one would know the difference," Baxter said.

However, lots of people noticed the fabulous difference and his art work is in high demand.

"More people want to memorialize their … immortalize their pets, so they see this as an option. They say photographs won't last forever, so hopefully, this will," Baxter added.

Simon has discovered people are willing to spend a lot of money on their pets. His smallest portrait starts at $550. The prices go up, according to size and number of pets, to $1,800. His "day job" as a school teacher at Lee High leaves him limited time to work on each canvas, so he wants to get it right.

"The last thing I paint are the eyes. A lot of artists paint the eyes first, but I figured if I can get it to look good without the eyes, when I put the eyes in, it just pops," Baxter explained.

February 20 is Love Your Pet Day.

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