“Ummm, I’ll be honest,” said my friend, looking a bit at the end of her rope. “She’s a handful.” She even repeated that last bit: “A handful.”

I looked down to find my dog with guilt written all over her snout and realized I’d never be able to call in a dog-sitting favor with that friend again.

Even pet owners with well-behaved dogs know their favors are numbered, and it’s especially hard to find a good sitter who isn’t entertaining or traveling during the holidays. I’d never considered boarding my dog in a kennel, but then I remembered that this is Los Angeles, where pooches are pampered and treated as stars, whether or not their owners are celebrities. Most boarding places offer cage-free overnight stays with accommodations ranging from cozy bed-and-breakfast types to luxurious resorts. Many offer spa treatments like nail grooming and aromatherapy. And with all sorts of stress-reduction massages, nowadays you’re almost better off being the pet left behind than the person heading home for the holidays.

Spa Hounds

The holidays are a pretty good time at Wagville. On Thanksgiving, guest dogs were given organic turkey and veggies (with their owners’ consent), and on Christmas there will be plenty of fresh beef and lamb doled out. “It makes a nice treat for the holiday,” says owner Julie Shine. Nutrition is taken seriously here, with raw, cooked and organic food prepared on-site. During the day there is plenty for pets to do: They can go on field trips to Runyon Canyon or Huntington Beach, or just play in the 8,000-square-foot romper room filled with plastic slides and playhouses. Of course, there are no cages. Doggies sleep on fleece beds or with Wagville’s overnight caretaker on the large mattress, an option for pets who are used to sleeping with a human. A friend who boarded her dog there said the little fellow didn’t want to leave, he was so happy. And one of the coolest things is a live webcam on the play area, so while you’re away, you can check in on your pal. As part of Wagville’s boarding services, your pet’s hygiene is watched by the staff, but you could also spring for your four-legged friend to get an oatmeal bath or a haircut, or have her nails trimmed, even a massage. Basic boarding, $45 per 24 hours. 2400 N. San Fernando Rd., L.A., (323) 222-4442 or www.wagville.com.

Celebrity Dogs

Celebs like Nicole Richie take their teeny pooch pals to LA Dogworks, specifically to the Dog Den, an elegant space for pets 30 pounds and less where tail-wagging guests can chill out together in comfort and style. The room is decorated with modern Scandinavian/IKEA-esque furniture, including sleek bunk beds, accessible by steps, with fluffy, bright-orange cushions. When the pets get dog-tired from their daily activities in the play area, they can crash in the den while the large flat-screen TV plays Animal Planet shows. For dogs that weigh more than 30 pounds, LA Dogworks offers a traditional kennel, a two-story area with attached full-height dog runsand high-tech drain systems built into each level. Dogs of all sizes are welcome at Dogworks’ Zen Den, a dog spa, of course. Inside the bamboo-and-slate space, dogs can get an aromatherapy massage — proven, they say, to reduce stress and tension — and breathe in the relaxing aromas from Comfort Zone diffusers. These emit Dog Appeasing Pheromones (DAP) that calm your pet and, according to the Dogworks description, “can reduce or eliminate triggered behaviors such as barking, urination and defecation, whimpering, anxiety and chewing.” Too bad they don’t make Human Appeasing Pheromones. Oh, wait, they do. It’s called “booze.” Basic boarding, $65 per 24 hours. 1014 N. Highland Ave., Hlywd., (323) 461-5151 or www.ladogworks.com.

Bed, Bone ?and Beyond

Dogwood is like a B&B for dogs. There are cozy little rooms with futons, chairs, carpets, blankets and pillows. Each area is defined by a picket fence, and some even have trompe l’oeil images of green pastures. During the day, dogs get to play all over the 12,000-square-foot indoor-outdoor areas, which include a yard with grass, trees and ivy-covered trellises. After dinner is served, day-care doggies go home, but boarders get to play a little longer. In the morning, the furry guests are served breakfast individually, and then they head out to play. Grooming and obedience training are also offered. Kate Judge, owner and certified trainer, says only 10 dogs are allowed at a time — up to 25 during the holidays — because she and partner Mick Moran didn’t want a warehouse atmosphere: “We want it to be more like a home.” Beware, though: Dogwood does rule out certain breeds right off the bat — no pit bulls, Dobermans or rottweilers. Judge and Moran also have to meet the dog first, so you’ll have to schedule an appointment. A co-worker who boarded her dog here was really pleased with the staff — they gave her shepherd mix more attention than she does herself. “People have said, ‘Oh, this reminds us of our favorite getaway,’ ” says Judge. “Then they ask, ‘Are you sure we can’t stay here? Looks more peaceful than where we’re going.’ ” Oh, what is it about the holiday season that makes us want to curl up fetal style in a dog bed? Basic boarding, $50 per day (7 a.m. to noon the next day, hotel style). 8652 Venice Blvd., Culver City, (310) 559-3647 or www.dogwooddaycare.com.

Home on the Range

Paradise Ranch is billed as a country club for dogs, and boarding your pet here is a lot like sending him on a vacation. It’s a 45-minute drive out of the city in Sun Valley, but if you want nothing but the ultimate in luxury for your pet, it’s worth the trip. The Ranch boasts a huge yard, a grotto, a koi pond and shade trees. And when bedtime comes, your wet-nosed buddy can retreat to a tiled-floor bedroom with murals of windswept beaches and furnished with comfy wrought-iron beds covered in colorful linens and pillows. Bonus services include private playtime, walks, grooming, massage and birthday parties. Doggies turning another seven years older can have a party with pointy hats, cake and fun times — at least we like to think so. Paradise Ranch also boards kitties. Cat-boarding suites include full maid service, calming music, cable TV, scratching posts and hanging toys. Cat grooming is available. And you can sign up cats or dogs for the buddy sleep service, where a staff member will sleep with your pet overnight. Basic dog boarding, $65 per night, $75 during holidays; cat boarding, $45 per night, $55 during holidays. 10268 La Tuna Canyon Rd., Sun Valley, (818) 768-8708 or www.paradiseranch.net.

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