Need a pet-sitter for your vacation? Try a prison

By Jerry Vaughn, Travel Talk

For those of us who own pets, a major part of planning (and expenses) for your vacation involves deciding what to do with your pet while you are gone.

There are several options available, depending on the type of trip you’re taking. One of course is to take your pet with you. If you choose to do that, I recommend you visit for some great tips on developing a pet travel plan.

The other option is to leave your pet behind while you are gone. Your choices are numerous, ranging from a house-sitter who comes in and feeds your pet to standard kennels and now the newest trend of "doggie hotels." These can be fairly pricey options ranging anywhere from $17 to $60 a day plus costs for exercise periods, special diets, etc.

If you have a large or difficult pet to care for, it can be even more challenging to find the right place so you will have peace of mind that your pet is well taken care of while you are gone.

That is the group I fall into. We have a beautiful, but slightly cantankerous, 100-pound purebred Samoyed that can be a bit of a handful. From day one, it has been a never-ending battle between Kiska and me to determine who the alpha dog is in the household. He is our second Samoyed, and I have always wondered why he is so much more difficult than our first (kind of like your kids).

Not long ago, we hired a Russian immigrant to do some work in our office and home. She immediately took a strong liking to Kiska. One day she told me she was curious about why we named our dog Kiska. I explained to her we decided that since he was a northern breed working dog, we would name him after the last island in Alaska’s Aleutian Island chain, which is Kiska Island.

After a moment, she asked me if I knew what Kiska meant in Russian. I admitted I did not. She went on to tell me that Kiska means "cat" in Russian. Mystery solved. My dog has been mad at me all these years because I named him CAT!

I used to joke with people that I was taking my dog to puppy prison when we were going out of town. Not so anymore. A few years ago, we had a client who was doing an extended tour of Europe and he was going to board his dogs at the Washington State Correctional Center for Women in Gig Harbor. He raved about the program and said his pets loved going there, and recommended I try it. I did, and I can tell you it was the best thing we ever did for Kiska while we traveled.

The Prison Pet Partnership Program is a vocational training program for prisoners who are serving varying sentences. It is in the medium security wing, has been around more than 20 years and is actually a very amazing program.

They teach inmates job skills they can use once released in veterinary services including kennel management, boarding, grooming and animal care. They also have a service dog training program and turn out five to eight service dogs that provide invaluable assistance each year to those with disabilities.

The program is under the supervision of director Beth Rivard. Rachel Keeler is the kennel manager. The customer service provided on the phone and at the facility is superior. The program is very popular and requires reservations at least six months in advance of your trip. It is a real bargain with a daily charge of $12 for dogs and $8 for cats. That includes extensive exercise and play periods, and you can specify the type of food your pet gets.

The inmates take exceptionally good care of the animals and you know your pet is in a secure environment. You have to go through extensive security to get in just to drop your pet off.

The Prison Pet Partnership Program is one option I strongly recommend as a resource for vacationers. You can make your reservation by calling (253) 858-4240. They do tours once a month if you want to see and learn more. Simply call and they will schedule you, or visit them on the Web at

Kiska even comes home from prison a little better behaved, at least temporarily, until he remembers I’m the one who named him cat.

Jerry Vaughn is president of World Voyager Vacations in Federal Way and can be reached at E-mail Vaughn to be included on a mailing list of travel destination reports.

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