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Yappy Birthday: Local services make it easy for pet owners to spoil their animals
By My Ngo
When Tuesday rolls around, Lady and Tramp know they have a full day ahead of them. It starts bright and early at 8 a.m. with a delicious bacon breakfast, followed by a quick walk around the block. Then they know they can't afford to lounge around the house for long, because they can't be late for their hair appointments.

But being late is hardly ever an issue for the two four-legged friends.

"They love getting their hair done," says owner Debbie King, a former Los Gatan. "They jump in the car and wag their tails as if to say, 'What are we waiting for? Let's go.' And, when they come home, they run around in circles to show off their new 'do."

So where do they get that just-stepped-out-of-a-salon look? From Fluffy Puppy, some 40 miles away from their Menlo Park home.

At Fluffy Puppy, Tramp, an 8-year-old Bichon, and his 10-year-old Finnish Spitz sister are given relaxing baths, hair trimmings, manicures (minus the nail polish) and lots of love from business owners Rick and Karyn Wiggins. After their beauty treatment, it's off for playtime with the usual Tuesday crowd in the center's doggie day-care facility.

"Every dog, or any pet for that matter, needs some TLC," says Karyn. "Why not? They're just as special as anyone else. And, for a lot of people, it's not just a pet. It's a family member."

No need to tell King this—she gives more than enough love to her "kids," feeding them gourmet steak dishes or hearty beef stew for dinner and jellybeans, their favorite, for dessert. She spends more than $4,000 a year on grooming and food, not including the $100 refills she gets for Lady's skin medicine. For King, there is no such thing as loving a pet too much.

"This may sound silly, but I want my kids to have the best in life," King says. "Seeing them happy makes me happy."

There's nothing silly about wanting the best for a four-legged companion. Apparently, several residents and merchants who feel the same way are willing to go the extra mile to make their friends happy.

It seems as if the area has just about anything and everything a dog or cat—or perhaps an owner—can ever dream of. Looking for a new wardrobe for a pet? Check out Pet People down the street from Fluffy Puppy. How about people and places that specialize in doggie therapy or massages or birthday cakes? Yes, there are such things as birthday cakes for dogs—and pet owners would be glad to know that they don't even have to leave their homes to get it.

Snacks just for pets

Former Saratogan Sara Woo of Barkaroo Bakery spends a lot of time in her kitchen baking away. She makes all-natural crunchy gourmet treats in five different flavors—pineapple, coconut, honey ginger, cheddar and peanut butter—and distributes them to stores like Pet People and Purrsnickety, as well as to individual clients throughout the valley.

But that's not all. She also bakes healthy treats in the form of hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, sushi and muffins out of chicken, tomato and garlic. Her creativity doesn't stop there; she specializes in birthday cakes, using flour, carob, eggs and sometimes vanilla as the main ingredients and cream cheese as the frosting.

"A lot of people are intrigued about what I do," Woo says. "I do it because it allows me to be creative. It's fun coming up with new ideas, and it's kinda cool knowing that there aren't many people around here who do what I do."

For the pets, Woo says her treats give them something new to try.

"Pets get bored eating the same thing over and over again. Wouldn't you?" she says. "They deserve to have a bit of a variety in their meals as much as any of us do."

Liz McCallister, a first-time patron at Purrsnickety and new resident of Los Gatos who bought two bags of Woo's treats for her two chows, say she heard about it from a friend and wanted to see if her dogs would like it.

"My dogs would eat pretty much anything. They're like garbage disposals," McCallister says. "I'm sure they'll eat these up pretty quick. I'm even tempted to try one myself. They smell pretty good."

McCallister says she likes the idea of having birthday cakes for dogs available and would be interested in ordering one.

"It would be neat having a party for a dog—sort of silly, but fun, though my dogs probably wouldn't care. They'd probably dig right into the cake. It probably wouldn't be a good idea to put candles on it."

A day at the spa

Some pets may prefer satisfying their palates, but Los Gatos resident Nala, a Pekingese puppy named after a character in The Lion King, likes being pampered in another way. She received her 20 minutes of ultimate relaxation not too long ago from Carla Campbell, a massage therapist who visits The Pet Spa every week. It was Nala's first time on Campbell's lap, but it didn't take long for her to get comfortable.

"You have to build a sense of trust with the pet before you do anything," says Campbell. "For some, it may take a while getting acquainted, but for others, they'll be rolling over on their backs in no time."

Nala is one of those pets. By the end of her session, she was curled up on Campbell's lap, yawning and ready to fall asleep.

So why give massages to pets? For Campbell, who is blind, this concept is not farfetched at all.

"Pets get the same thing out of this as we do," Campbell says. "It's not just about luxury. Dogs are athletes. They run, jump and play rough. They need to maintain their bodies."

Keeping her dogs in good health, shape and looks is important for Los Gatos resident Julie Carroll, owner of Nala and 6-year-old Jetta. That's why she feeds them Fit and Trim, takes them to the spa every six weeks and sends them to a veterinarian for medical and dental work.

"These guys are like my children," she says. "It's a pleasure having them around. They're great company."

Like actual children, Nala and Jetta have their own toy box filled with stuffed animals and squeaky toys, which seem to be accumulating.

"Every once in a while, if I see a toy they might like, I buy it. But I always have to buy two or else one will get jealous," Carroll says.

Also, one is known to be a bit feistier and more demanding than the other. According to Carroll, Jetta has a tendency to tip the water bowl over if it doesn't have ice.

"She can be a real number sometimes," she says. "But we love her anyway."

Canine hydrotherapy

If massages or walks don't do much for the pet—or if it's bored of the usual exercise routine—owners have the option of taking them to Connie Frank, a veterinary technician with AquaDog, specializing in canine hydrotherapy. She rents out a residential pool in San Jose, but has clients from all over the valley, including 13-year-old Sonoma Annie Mercado, a German shepherd mix, from Saratoga.

Sonoma goes to the pool to compensate for her lack of exercise. She lost her right front leg five years ago after an accident occurred in her owner's backyard. While playing with other dogs, she fell into a hole in the grass and twisted her leg.

"We didn't think much of it at the time," says owner Dan Mercado. "But we knew something was wrong when we found her in the garage panting." The damage to the leg was so severe that veterinarians decided it would be best to remove it.

Sonoma's handicap left her depressed for a while. She lost her appetite and started losing weight. But Mercado says he gradually saw a difference in Sonoma's spirits, ever since he took her to Frank.

"She seems to be a lot happier now and more at ease," says Mercado. "She's eating more and actually gaining some weight."

Some weight? According to Frank, it wouldn't hurt her to shed some pounds.

Being in the 90-degree water helps Sonoma in many ways. It helps with her arthritis and relieves some of the pressure and stiffness of her joints. In addition to being a bit overweight, she has chronic trouble with her knees.

For the first 10 to 15 minutes of the workout, Frank focuses on doing some stretching exercises with Sonoma and then moves onto more strenuous exercises, swaying her from side to side and doing exaggerated movements.

"The point of this is to have her work out muscles that she doesn't use often," Frank says. "If I push her to one side, she'll have a tendency to right herself or push in the opposite direction to balance herself. She's gotten a lot better at it over the past couple of years."

It may look like fun, but Sonoma is working hard. By the end of her workout, she's breathing heavily.

Frank says she loves her job and that it requires her to be creative with how she deals with each dog. For example, she often dances with one dog, who put its front legs on her shoulders and its hind legs touching the floor, as a way of getting it to stretch. And, with another dog that likes to chase things, she makes figure-eight splashes across the pool.

"Every dog has a unique personality," Frank says. "Sometimes you've got to work with what they like."

Expect the unexpected

Taking good care of pets is important during the owner's lifetime, but what happens when the unexpected occurs? Who would be the next caretaker?

That's what Amy Shever asks her clients. A former animal-rescue volunteer, Shever is the owner and founder of PetGuardian, headquartered in Los Gatos. The company helps owners secure homes where their pets will go when the owners have died or can no longer care for the pets, by establishing a pet trust.

"Often, pets end up at animal shelters or are euthanized," she says. "Five million pets are euthanized each year. Of that, 500,000 were owned by people who passed away."

How does it work? Clients must fill out a comprehensive form, detailing the pet's health history, eating habits, behavior and exercise regime. Then they decide who to hand their pets over to.

"This gives the owner some peace of mind, knowing that their pet will be in good hands," says Shever. "Often, people don't consider this because they think they will outlive their pets. It's important to plan ahead because you never know what will happen."

In the meantime, pets can lead a pampered life, whether that means eating a birthday cake, taking a relaxing swim, getting a hairdo or getting a massage.

Now that's living.


It's nice to know that pet owners don't have to look too far to find unique services. For those interested in pampering their pets, here are a few places to go:

* Fluffy Puppy, 656A N. Santa Cruz Ave., 408.354.0078

* The Pet Spa, 1516 Pollard Road, 408.379.8911

* AquaDog Canine Swim Therapy, 408.472.6631

* Barkaroo Bakery, 408.313.8769

* Critters Corner, 15545 Los Gatos Blvd., 408.402.9660

Copyright SVCN, LLC.