The Pet Lover's Guide
From dog yoga to “pet resorts,” local pooches, kittens and other furry friends can have it all.
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Leta Koontz and Laurie Held generated a buzz in 2004 when they launched “doga” (aka dog yoga) at Schoolhouse Yoga in Lawrenceville. Surprising as it sounded, the idea of yoga for dogs made perfect sense to caring pet owners who know the importance of exercise and stretching — especially for older canines.
The trend caught on, popping up in a few other cities around the country, and Koontz has continued offering doga at her studio and also through Animal Friends, where she teaches several times a year. You can also find doga classes at Misty Pines Dog Park.
The swimming areas at Lucky Paws, Paws Here A While and Misty Pines are all available to doggie day-care visitors, and aquatic dogs can also explore a gorgeous outdoor trail at Frick Park that offers a creek with a dam. Canines are welcome to romp in that, but Dr. Doug Knueven points out that stagnant outdoor water (think creeks or ponds) can harbor bacteria called leptosporosis.
Though he’s not a fan of frequent pet vaccination, he suggests outdoor pets be protected from this harmful bacteria. If you'd like your pet to swim for a good cause, the Dormont Pool hosts an annual pet-centric fundraiser during Labor Day weekend, where dogs take over the historic pool. Big and small pooches are kept in separate areas for safety, but all of them have a chance to play.
Small furry creatures can be great low-maintenance pets for children. They generally cost somewhere between $10 and $25, and only need their cages cleaned once a week. But caring for hamsters, gerbils, rabbits and guinea pigs requires a gentle (and recently washed) hand.
The folks at Seahorse pet store (724/443-2920) in Hampton Township tell us that kids must always wash their hands before handling a hamster or gerbil because the scent of something they’ve recently eaten could cause the animal to bite. Kids also need to be careful not to drop, squeeze or step on their critter if it jumps out of their hands.
Don’t get your feathers ruffled when considering a bird as a pet. Avian companions live in a relatively small space indoors; they are inexpensive to feed and rarely require vet care. But, as with any pet, don’t just wing it: Seek advice from bird owners or shops specializing in birds before thinking about buying one for the first time.
Donn Blosser, owner of Pretty Birds in Millvale, offers a simple rule for beginners: Purchasing a bird needs to be family commitment. The life span of a bird is proportionate to its size (a small one lives eight to 10 years, and the larger birds can live as many as 80).
Parakeets or cockatiels are reasonable choices for a novice. Decide whether you prefer an “interactive” bird (one that talks and likes to be handled) or a more hands-off bird (like a finch or canary, which serenades you with its song but never leaves its cage). Also, consider your noise-tolerance level.
“All birds will make noise,” says Blosser, but some, like conures, are likely to squawk more than others. — Mike May
■ Pretty Birds: 412/822-8082, prettybirds.net
For many pets, a trip to the groomer is a no-brainer. After getting a quick bath in warm, sudsy water, followed by a blast from the blow-dryer, they happily head home. But for our youngest and oldest furry friends, Amy Swickline, owner of Animal Elegance, has some valuable advice: For new pets, “start them out with grooming as young as possible,” she says, “to get them used to it.” This can start at home by gently brushing their fur before segueing to grooming appointments for the most basic services — a bath with nail and ear trim.
While hanging out at home, play with your puppy’s feet, Swickline says, massaging the paw pads or rubbing between the toes so your pup won’t be surprised when a groomer touches their feet.
As your pet grows and grooming visits get more familiar, perhaps add extras like a de-shedding treatment. Animal Elegance uses all-natural cleaning products and offers cat and dog grooming services.
Over at A Diamond in the Ruff, you can get your pet freshly cleaned with the help of staffers, who also offer a “scent of the month” to improve the fragrance of your furry friend; some of their other spa services include the ever-popular blueberry facial treatment.
UrbanDog has a soothing Dead Sea mineral mud scrub — and, for those unfortunate wildlife encounters, a “de-skunkifying treatment.”
The Pet Salon, home of the quick “Splash and Dash for Dogs,” offers a flat rate for unlimited monthly dog bathing, shampooing, blow drying and brushing.
■ Animal Elegance: 412/361-1177, animal-elegance.com
■ A Diamond in the Ruff: 412/381-2200, diamondintheruff.com
■ UrbanDog: 412/782-2200, urbandogusa.com
■ The Pet Salon: 412/279-5331, petsalonusa.com
The Creative Cat, Pet Blogger
Seeking information and advice on all things feline? Look no further than the photo-filled blog at thecreativecat.net. Artist and writer Bernadette Kazmarski posts sketches and adorable photos of her ever-growing cat family daily, and shares valuable information on local pet resources, adoptions, fostering and more.