Animal Indulgence

What do you get for the pet that has everything? How about a massage, a portrait, a home pedicure, or a resort vacation? Here are 10 local finds guaranteed to please your pug, soothe your Siamese, tame your Toucan, and prove you love your llama.

DON’T BE JEALOUS. Some folks just prefer pets to people, and it shows in their work. We found a group of talented professionals who cater to pets with such service and skill that their animal attentions may leave humans feeling a little envious. These entrepreneurial types have thought of everything, from what pets need to be happy and healthy, to how they feel, what they like and what they loathe, and even how to immortalize them. So throw Fido a bone and check out the very best that Minnesota has to offer its hairy, feathery, and scaly inhabitants.

1. Ruff Revelry

At the first party she hosted for her dog, Delaney Berrini felt a little stupid. “I had nametags for everyone,” she says. But when her friends showed up, wore the badges, played her dog-centric games, and had a blast, she thought, “People would pay for this.” Now Berrini plans custom parties for dogs and the Minnesotans who spoil them. There are cakes, cookies, cupcakes, goodie bags, and games—all for the four-footed. Though you may have fun, her parties are not for you; they’re for your pooch. So heel and obey! Available only in the metro area.

2. Speak, Boy, Speak

Ever wonder where your stray pet really came from or why your collie is deathly afraid of thunderstorms? Does your parakeet love or hate that new toy? And why won’t your Abyssinian use the litter box? Well, why not just ask? Dawn Huebner, a St. Paul-based animal communicator, can “talk” with any animal, acting as interpreter between pets and owners. Huebner helps clients understand what pets are really thinking—even regarding serious concerns like aggression and potty training—and she coaches them when it’s time to decide whether to let a sick pet go. Skeptical? “Try it and then decide,” Huebner says. “Animals never lie.”

3. Go Gourmet

For those who feel strange about buying fresh, organic food for themselves, only to dump dubious-looking brown pellets into a dish for the furrier members of the family at dinnertime, Sojourner Farms makes pet food with ingredient lists that read like a salad from Whole Foods. With products like their Monzie’s Organic Muesli, you’re covered if you run out of Kashi. Find them at co-ops and fine groceries throughout the metro area—and Bemidji.

Photo by Eric Moore

4. Bird Bliss

Woe is the unwitting person who bought that beautiful birdie in the window on a whim. By hosting parrot adoption events and educational seminars, the Soaring Spirit specialty bird store in Plymouth can help parrot owners reinvent their relationships with their screaming, biting birds. “[Parrots] have very high intellectual and social needs,” which is why Soaring Spirit offers a warehouse full of mind-stimulating toys, human-grade food, and a for-the-birds, Disneyland-style boarding facility, says owner Brenda Collins. After a few days of lounging in the bright rooms, interacting with the expertly trained staff, and watching satellite TV tuned to Nickelodeon, Polly may never want to go home.

5. Posh Pets

At Boneadventure, shoppers browse “outer-wear” rather than dog clothes. There are beds that range in style from contemporary to traditional, and foodstuffs so fancy they’d make Pavlov himself salivate. Owner Brian Fulmer says, “We seek out high-quality products, things that offer function and a good value, but are pleasant to look at as well.” The local chain traffics in the newest of the new, the haute couture of all things canine. And with Boneadventure shops in Minneapolis, Wayzata, and Edina, it’s easy to fetch something when you need it. “We’ve always located our stores in neighborhoods,” says Fulmer. “We have dogs that stop in every day to get a cookie.” Who could resist high fashion and baked goods?


6. Hostel Attitude

Hundreds of hotels allow pets, but what about a destination that does better than that? Turtle Creek Ranch in Prairie Farm, Wisconsin, is as much a getaway for dogs as people. “The places I have visited that claimed to be dog-friendly turned out to be places where dogs were simply tolerated,” says owner Vicki Hoff. “Dogs often had to be on a leash, and they didn’t have places for dogs to run, explore, and play.” That’s why she offers all of the above at Turtle Creek.

¶ If you gotta go and Fido can’t, his vacation may be more fun than yours at Downtown Dogs, the massive, newly expanded boarding, daycare, grooming, and training wonderland in Minneapolis. You can even check in on him via webcam.

¶ If your pet is more of a homebody, search for a sitter to come to your home while you’re away. Better than the neighbor kid, try Professional Pet Sitters of Minnesota.

7. Grooming on the Go

No one likes the inevitable struggle brought on by a trip to the groomer. A better option might be to bring the shears and shampoo right to the door. Irene Kronmiller of At Home Mobile Pet Groom is willing to drive her portable bath-mobile anywhere within 10 miles of her St. Louis Park home, doing the dirty work right in front of her client’s homes. She says the animals find it pleasant. “They’re not exposed to any other animals and they can see their house,” she says. 952-922-1499

8. Best Behavior

For pet lovers who prefer the scientific to the psychic, Christopher L. Pachel, of Twin Cities Veterinary Behavior, offers in-home consultations for pets’ behavioral problems. He helps with cats that don’t use the litter box, with dogs that bark, dig, piddle, jump, or bite. “I rely on what the animal shows in body language cues and behavior patterns,” Pachel says. From that he forms a diagnosis and treatment plan. It’s all based on “a scientific background,” he explains. Treatment can include managing the bad behavior and maneuvering it into good behavior, and when appropriate, administering meds.

9. Lovin’ Art

Covering Minnesota and the Upper Midwest, Benda Photography captures beautiful photographs of anything that its customers consider pets. The studio’s portfolio is filled with people and their monkeys, snakes, reptiles, rabbits, and rats, as well as more conventional—and just as cute—beasts. Jim and Kae Benda’s oeuvre includes teacup dogs spilling from teapots, kittens piled on vintage furniture, and mutts making faces.

Photo by Eric Moore

10. Dog Paddling

Get out the doggy water-wings and swim cap. For dogs that are arthritic, recovering from surgery, or troubled by muscle or joint pain, K9 Hydrotherapy’s St. Louis Park facility has a warm-water pool, whirlpool, and an underwater treadmill to get them moving—with no skeletal impact and many health benefits. Dogs must have a veterinarian referral, but once they do, they usually leave feeling like a million bucks. Owner John Lambert says, “We love every dog that comes here, and every dog loves coming here.” It’s no wonder: sessions include massage and range of motion exercises in the whirlpool.

Kelli Ohrtman, a freelance writer, shares a house with five dogs, two cats, and the occasional stray.