Daphne loves her Aunt Kathleen and Uncle Bob.

She enjoys when they come to visit, and she gets so excited when she gets to spend the night at their house that she flops on her back, wags her tail and demands a belly rub.

"We have been blessed to have a doggie aunt and uncle situation so close by and so willing to host our little beast for the occasional weekend or overnight," said Matthew Steward, whose beagle and terrier mix, Daphne, stays with friends Kathleen Beardmore and Bob Skon when Steward and his wife, Suzi, need a dog sitter.

Beardmore and Skon enjoy the visits, too. They get some of the benefits of sharing their Ann Arbor, Mich., home with a dog but without a full-time commitment.

"It's nice to have her visit but it's nice to have her go home," Skon said. Having their own dog, he said, "would be a major lifestyle change."

Thirty-seven percent of U.S. households have no pet, according to a 2007-2008 survey by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association. Some people who would like to have an animal companion find they can't; perhaps their job involves too much travel, or their apartment prohibits pets, or someone in the family has allergies.

There are plenty of ways, however, for animal lovers who can't have a pet to find a little puppy (or kitten) love.

PET-SIT

Skon had cats before he and Beardmore started dating, and although she's allergic, she learned to cope. After the cats died, however, Skon felt he should give Beardmore a break. Dog visitation is a good compromise.

GO TO ANIMAL-FRIENDLY BUSINESSES

For even less commitment, load your pocet and end up adopting.

PART-TIME TO PERMANENT

Some temporary arrangements do have a way of turning permanent, as Rachel Masters learned.

Masters lived in Manhattan and traveled frequently for work, so for several years her Pomeranian, Malka, would spend extended time with Masters' parents, Stuart and Ellen Masters, in Pittsfield, Mass. Gradually, the fluffy little dog acquired her own bed in Pittsfield, then started having vet and grooming appointments there. Rachel's city apartment got hot in the summer, so off Malka went to Stuart and Ellen's.

"She would spend summers in the Berkshires," Rachel said. "My dog had a better life than me."

When Masters got a job that required relocating to Silicon Valley, she realized that her parents had no intention of giving up their part-time pooch. "It was too hard for them to lose both of us," she said. "She has a really good life with them."

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On the Net:

http://www.petfriendlytravel.com/

http://www.bestfriends.org

http://www.americanpetproducts.org/press--industrytrends.asp