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Dogtopia Paws Its Way Into Canada

12/06/2013 12:35 EST | Updated 02/05/2014 05:59 EST

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA -- I have a frequent-flyer friend who lives with her yorkie and often finds herself having to run out of town at a moment's notice. Most times, she can leave home feeling confident and secure knowing she can count on me to step in and provide Coco with affectionate care.

I love dogs, but as a travel journalist I'm on the road a lot and don't keep pets of my own. When I am home, I welcome the opportunity to spend time with my surrogate pet. We enjoy our walks together, having treats, and snuggling. Coco feels right at home here. But when I am not available to dog sit, Rosa in the past has had no choice but to leave her cherished pet in a kennel when she goes on vacay.

That's about to change. Dogtopia, a doggie daycare centre that started in Virginia in 2002, is expanding to Canada, with 35 locations planned for the next several years. Vancouver will be home to the first franchise location in the country early in 2014, Dogtopia founder and CEO Amy Nichols says.

"I was in Vancouver for the first time a couple of years ago and it was only for a few days, and we weren't thinking about coming into Canada at that point, but I remember thinking to myself: Those are our people. Our customers are very committed to their pets and they're highly educated. It seemed very natural to me that a market like Vancouver would make sense for Dogtopia," Nichols says. "I just thought, 'We need to be here.' Little did I know that three years later we would be here."

Other locations are planned for Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon and municipalities in the Greater Toronto Area. Among Dogtopia's services are webcams, so owners can tune in to view their pets when they're apart, and multiple play areas where dogs are separated by size and attitude. Dogs will enjoy pawdicures and specialty gourmet treats. Owners will have the peace of mind of knowing their pets are well taken care of day and night.

For those communities that do not have a Dogtopia, there are other options. A really good site to visit for information on Dog Grooming Destinations in Canada is BringFido.com.

You can also check the yellow pages for dog walking services. Some services will come to your house once or twice a day to take care of your pet. Another option is the veterinary clinic. Sometimes they will board animals for short stays.

Pet lovers spent $6.5 billion on their animals in 2012, the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council of Canada says. According to Statistics Canada, more than 4.4 million households in the country have a dog. While Nichols expansion plans may make dogsitters like me obsolete, it also helps to guarantee outstanding care for dogs.

"In Vancouver alone, families have 110,000 dogs. What Dogtopia provides is a safe, joyful, caring environment for dogs when their owners are at work or on vacation," says Chris Aconley, a franchise expert from Vancouver and Dogtopia's western regional manager. "Dog lovers in Canada will now have peace of mind when they are apart from their pets. The days of worrying about how your pet is doing when you're not there with them are over."

Click on the link to read Vancouver: A great city for pet travel on Vacay.ca.

To read more stories on Vacay.ca, click here.