Shady Acres Pet Ranch is more like a farm than a typical boarding facility. On three acres of land, lush, green grass awaits hounds who can frolic in three play yards dappled with sunlight thanks to the property's 100-year-old oak trees. Pups spend their daylight hours playing with similarly-sized friends under the watchful eyes of pet-friendly staff members. Then, as the sun sets, they can hunker down in heated and air-conditioned closed-door suites that offer privacy for dogs who keep diaries. Though farm-like in many ways, the ranch does boast a number of modern amenities where it counts, including having a CPR– and First Aid–certified caretaker.
Though the Austin Aquarium spans a mere 24,000 square feet, its exhibits encompass marine habitats from around the world, housing more than 3,000 species from Oregon to Indonesia in its aquariums and aviaries. Among the activities, visitors can feel the skin of rays or tempt birds or younger siblings with handfuls of nectar. The aquarium also hosts behind-the-scenes tours and sleepovers in which kids can get a glimpse into the ocean at night, when even the mightiest sharks cower in fear from plankton's elongated shadows.
The zookeepers and storytellers at Tiny Tails to You! travel from town to town to organize pop-up petting zoos four days a week, and lease out hands-on learning experiences for festivals, summer camps, and private parties. What beasts turn up at these parties is up to the customer, who might arrange for anything from an avalanche of fluffy bunnies and baby birds to an encampment of chinchillas, hedgehogs, leopard geckos, and tortoises. The staff's love for animals extends beyond informative show-and-tells—head zookeeper Ed Bradfield offers pet-sitting services for dogs, cats, exotic pets, and house-trained rocks, and the zookeepers are nearly always offering baby bunnies for adoption.
The sleek planks of wood in the private sauna rooms at Austin Sauna Club seem to absorb the infrared heat that radiates into the room, using it to warm guests from all angles. Visitors recline in the cozy space as the club's SoloCarbon heaters raise the temperature. According to staff, the sauna provides benefits ranging from lower blood pressure and weight loss to improved skin texture and collagen stimulation.
Instead of "dog walkers," calling the team from Pup Pup Pooch "dog runners" would be more precise. Some dogs like to stroll; others could walk for hours and still get home and want to chase the Roomba. For these dogs, a crew member straps on running shoes and takes them for a run at their own pace, ensuring that they burn off that energy without overheating. Owners know when their pup leaves for their run with automatic email alerts, and GPS tracking systems offer real-time tracking of dog-walking routes.
Behind the glass-paneled bakery case at Doggie Deli & Spa, baked bones and confections get canines salivating in the grand tradition of Pavlov's bell. Natural treats from Bark Stix, Whole Life, and Stella & Chewy's share shop space with collars, leashes, and toys, as well as a carefully curated selection of dog food so delicious pups will have to teach their humans not to beg. The spa half of the shop welcomes pooches and their owners for self-service washes powered by an assortment of shampoos, sprayers, and a high-velocity dryer.