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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Thinking Outside the Bowl
Dave Enedy, co-owner of Oddball Pets and Aquariums, isn’t crazy about the number of bright betta fish trapped in tiny tanks. The popular pets “need a heater or a really warm house,” he explains. “You can’t really keep them in bowls, like a lot of people think.” Enedy, who runs Oddball Pets with his wife, co-owner Stephanie, instead recommends a planted tank — densely filled with vegetation — for new owners.
“Get lots of plants and lots of nano fish, shrimp and dwarf crayfish," he advises. "There’s not much to it, just water changes every week.” Filling a bigger tank? Check out Oddball’s collection of beautiful African cichlids — or take in the selection at local favorite Elmer’s Aquarium & Pet Center. — Sean Collier
We Do Nails
Grind or clip? Pile on the rhinestones or go colorless? The options for pet manicures are almost as varied as they are for human hands. The experts tell us pet nail polish and rhinestone appliqués aren’t common in Pittsburgh, but they’re available at many area groomers. At A Diamond in the Ruff, “not a lot of customers do it, but we definitely have a group of regular customers who do.” Not every dog is comfortable staying still enough to get their nails done, and some even balk at basic nail care. One option is nail grinding (where nails are shortened and smoothed with a small dremel), which dogs may or may not find less stressful than traditional clipping and filing. But which is better? “It’s kind of just what the dog prefers,” says Animal Elegance owner Amy Swickline. “A lot of dogs are scared to death of the dremel,” but some do prefer it.
While many of Pittsburgh’s doggie day-care and boarding facilities offer obedience classes, some area businesses focus exclusively on training. At Canine Concepts, the training is about you as much as it is about your dog.
“We educate pet owners, and we also train based on the breed of dog,” says owner Thomas Gross. “You have to know what you have at the end of the leash before you can train your dog.”
Gross trains “working dogs” to help senior citizens and to protect homes or businesses; he also sells numerous dog breeds and works with pet caregivers in their homes to improve their furry friends’ behavior. K-9 All Breed Headquarters tackles problem behaviors and aggression issues in addition to teaching tracking and scent work; it serves Allegheny, Beaver and Butler counties.
While the loving animal shelters of Allegheny County are a safe haven for down-on-their-luck pets, those furry friends would much prefer to be curled up at your feet. And as any rescue pet owner can tell you, all these guys need is love and attention — and they’ll thank you with a lifetime of companionship.
The Animal Rescue League & Wildlife Center is also a low-cost clinic, so you can save on your new friend’s vet needs after you adopt (ARL maintains a wildlife rehabilitation center, too). Animal Friends’ spacious facility is always preparing for a pet-friendly fundraiser, like wintertime pet photo shoots with Santa or owner-and-critter parties (with low-cost rabies shots, to boot).
The Western Pennsylvania Humane Society offers great obedience classes. And Hello Bully doesn’t just shelter unwanted pit bulls — it also rescues and rehabilitates the misunderstood breed (take Bulletproof Sam, for example). Check shelter websites for adoption hours and policies. — Sean Collier
Does your cat suddenly change from cozy kitty to freaked-out feline, shredding your stuff while you’re at work ... and you have no idea why? Do you ever look deep into your dog’s eyes and ask yourself, “I wonder what he’s thinking?” Renee Takacs may be able to tell you, because she gets the answer right from the horse’s mouth (or mind, to be exact).
Takacs is an “animal communicator,” practicing pet telepathy to talk with creatures of every size. Dogs and cats are most common, but Takacs says she can also speak with your bunny, iguana … or even your fish. And because the conversations are telepathic, she’ll often conduct them right over the phone from her Mars, Pa., office.
Takacs says pets are “enormously grateful” to have the opportunity to tell their owners what’s on their minds, what foods they might miss, what exercise they most enjoy — or why they’ve been a bit sad or moody lately. Takacs even holds workshops to help people learn how to communicate telepathically with their pets. Great minds, thinking alike. — Jonathan Wander
A romp at a dog park will send most pups into a frenzied bout of wagging joy — but use caution, lest your playful excursion take a not-so-happy turn. If your pet is friendly and not aggressive toward other dogs (or people), a public park visit might be in order; when you arrive, though, make sure that pooches in the area are closely supervised and well-behaved. Be sure that you stay close to Fido, too, just in case an encounter with another canine needs to be quickly diffused.
Local dog lovers favor the off-leash area at Hartwood Acres. Is your pup a little behind on his social skills — or do you just not feel like taking the risk? Animal Friends rents out its off-leash area for private frolicking. Reservations are required, and a $5 donation per dog, per half-hour, is requested. — Sean Collier
■ Hartwood Acres: 200 Hartwood Acres, Hampton Township
■ Animal Friends: 562 Camp Horne Road, Ohio Township; 412/847-7000, thinkingoutsidethecage.org
There’s the Rub
It’s good for us and it’s good for them: Therapeutic massage is becoming a staple of pet health. You can take your pet for a massage appointment (some groomers and boarding locations offer massage service — Camp Bow Wow has massage baths, and the Fur Butter treatment at Lucky Paws Resort includes a 15-minute Swedish massage). Or you can sign up for a cat massage lesson at Animal Friends, where a certified massage therapist teaches owners to do massages at home (cost: a one-time $20 donation to Animal Friends).
Massage is fun and relaxing for your pet, and stimulates healthy circulation. Another health bonus: Regularly massaging your pet keeps you in tune with their overall well-being, helping you notice small changes in weight, skin texture or fur quality earlier than you might have otherwise.