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But do they serve Milk Bones past 11?

They get some bizarre requests here at the motel. One woman dropped off a portable radio and bag of batteries because her baby likes a certain rock 'n' roll station (95-YNF). Another woman left a tape player and a casette so her baby could always hear a familiar voice. "Hi, Poo-Poo. It's Mommy and Daddy. We miss you."

Sometimes, mommy and daddy send postcards. And sometimes, they call. Like the man who was in Europe for an extended business trip. In fact, he called several times.

"And believe it or not," said Karen Hughart, who made the conversation possible by holding the receiver to the baby's ear, "he responded to the voice on the phone." Never one to eavesdrop, Karen said she didn't listen in on what was said.

In each of these cases, the baby was a cat.

It's vacation time again, and that means if you're planning to travel, you and your pet will probably have to part company.

You could bring your pet with you, but that kind of defeats the purpose of a vacation, which is to go someplace where nobody knows you and do strange things. Unless, of course, you're one of those people who puts clothes and funny hats on your pet. Then you probably asked your pet if you could go along with it.

But let's say you have a pet and a two-week vacation, two things which are mutually exclusive. What do you do?

You could con your neighbor into coming over and checking on little Fifi every day. But the problem there is that when you return, your pet will have either turned into a bad toupee, or it will have become so attached to the neighbor that they both attack you when you walk in the door.

Another alternative is to empty a 100-pound bag of food into a bowl and let the animal fend for itself. But since pets are notorious eaters of anything that's available, this could lead to the dreaded Exploding Pet Syndrome.

To avoid this, you may need to board your pet. This can be done at something called a pet motel, which are also known as pet resorts, pooch palaces, canine country clubs, etc. These places used to be called kennels, and some still are.

But "kennel" just didn't seem like an adequate description. After all, consider the actual amenities some of these places offer:

Blanket and snacks at bed time, closed-circuit TV/stereo music, home-cooked meals/24-hour security/air-conditioned "living quarters"/love (no tranquilizers)/waterfront view cat condos/separate eight-foot cat suites.

How many of these things do you get on a regular basis? (I could only come up with one _ the last item.)

The point is that pet-watching is a big, competitive business, and the people who run pet motels take their calling seriously. Karen and John Hughart, who operate the Pasadena Pet Motel (waterfront view cat condos) make sure that all their guests get regular exercise, lots of attention and good food, including turkey on Christmas and Thanksgiving. (Bird guests eat their normal food and are not told about the special meal.)

The thermostat is always set at 70 degrees, the stereo is perpetually tuned to an easy-listening station (WARM-107), which means a steady diet of Streisand, Diamond and all your relaxing, easy favorites, and the rates are reasonable, between $7.50 and $11.50 a day.

Actually, it's so nice here that sometimes, the animals don't want to leave. Until they put a special lock on his door, Fred the German shepherd would flip the latch on his cage and, rather than try to flee, race up and down the row inciting his fellow guests.

If you can't bear the thought of boarding your pet, you might consider hiring a professional pet-sitter. These are people who come to your house and spend quality time with your critter.

For a $10 fee, Tina Heselton or one of the 18 people who work for her at Pampered Pets Inc. in Tampa will spend about half an hour feeding your pet, walking it, and cleaning up if it "made a boo-boo." They'll also water plants, bring in the mail and check the house.

Besides dogs and cats, Heselton has cared for iguanas and Amazon parrots, and Wolfen, a 110-pound wolf/malamute mix that's owned by an elderly couple. If Wolfen doesn't get his morning walk by 5:15 a.m., he starts howling. Then he starts tossing things around _ garbage cans, telephone poles, anything handy.

"We also have two cats, Martini and Rossi, that we turn on a video for," Heselton said. "It's a 30-minute video of birds flying and singing. They sit there in front of the TV watching their tape while I fix their lunch.

"They just love it," she said.

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