Do your holiday pet shopping locally!


“Plaidradoodle”, by flickr user lexuh

Buying presents for our pets and the pet lovers in our lives is almost as much fun as shopping for cute baby clothes. If you live in Portland, Oregon, why not shop at some of these local businesses and keep your money in the community?

Dog Star Daycare

Although Dog Star is primarily a doggie day care, I’ve never walked out without a purchase. Owner Theresa helped me fit Jake with the Gentle Leader that’s saved my left shoulder, and even gave me great advice and a handful of treats to feed him on the walk home to acclimate him to his new head collar. Conveniently located in the Pearl District, Dog Star promotes adoption by featuring adoptable kitties in their front window for shoppers and passers-by to coo over. Theresa’s committment to adoption includes discounts on your first purchase, a free half-day of daycare, and a discounted vet exam.

What to buy

While cute leashes and collars are always fun, buying a friend a package of daycare days can be a thoughtful gift. Dog Star carries Wellness as well as many other brands of high-quality food and can order products they don’t have in stock.

1313 NW Kearney Street
Portland, OR 97209


The Wet Spot

A fixture in the Hollywood District for as long as I’ve lived in Portland, it’s easy to attribute the Wet Spot’s longevity to novelty. Far from it, their selection of freshwater tropical fish and aquarium supplies is extensive, and their staff is incredibly knowledgable. They post updates to their stock on their popular Facebook page and offer maintenance services to help you with set up as well as regular health checkups and algae control.

What to buy

If you know what the fish-o-phile in your life wants, or just want to surprise them, The Wet Spot is sure to have something great in stock. That said, a real fish-hound could go crazy here with a generous gift certificate!

4310 NE Hancock
Portland, OR 97213


Western Pet Supply

“Serving Portland’s pets for over 20 years” is the motto at Western Pet Supply, and they live up to it! Started when founders Bill and Julie made a cedar pet bed for their Golden Retriever, Boohn, the business has grown to be an anchor in the Portland community. More than just dog and cat food, they carry supplies for everybody from horse people to urban homesteaders building chicken coops.

What to buy

Almost anything – they carry Chuck-its and Kong products for your canine buddies, catnip toys for the kitties, and even wild bird feeders for those who prefer their companion animals more free-range. Western Pet Supply does not charge additional fees for special orders.

6908 SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy
Portland, OR 97225


Pets as presents? Weigh the costs…


image courtesy flick user Mike Schmid

Everyone loves the idea of a cute puppy or kitten as a holiday gift, but the cost of buying or adoping a pet is only the beginning. According to the ASPCA, the first year of your new family member’s life with you can cost between $300 and $2,000 – and that doesn’t include emergency veterinary services or boarding!

There are ways to keep costs down, however, without sacrificing the health and happiness of your new furry friend.

Packaged vet care

Many veterinarians and animal hospitals offer well puppy (or kitten) packages – bundled services that can save you 20% or more on the necessary services you’ll need, like spay or neuter services, vaccines, parasite prevention medications, and other checkups. Ask your vet (or look on their web site) for lists of included and excluded services and price comparisons.

Pet insurance

Just as our costs for health care can spiral out of control if we didn’t have insurance, so can veterinary costs. Companies like VPI offer plans at different price and coverage points – ask your vet for advice on what plans she would recommend for your dog or cat.

Extend your pet’s family

The average American dog-owning family spends about $300 a year on boarding. Pet sitters can be a more personal and cost-effective solution, but you should also consider finding friends to trade pet sitting with among your existing social network. You’ll not only be giving your dog a “home away from home” experience with another dog lover, you’ll be building a support network for your pets.

Are you and your pet prepared for an emergency?


With winter weather coming, many of us are making preparations for severe storms or other emergencies by buying extra candles, batteries, canned goods, and other necessities. But have you given much thought to what your pet needs in case of an emergency?

The US Department of Homeland Security has developed a pet preparedness pamphlet (PDF) in partnership with the ASPCA, the American Kennel Club, the American Veterinary Medical Association, and the Humane Society of the United States. Here are some highlights:

Prepare an emergency supply kit that contains:

  • Food. Keep at least three days of food in an airtight, waterproof container. 
  • Water. Store at least three days of water specifically for your pets in addition to water you need for yourself and your family
  • Medicines and medical records. Keep an extra supply of medicines your pet takes on a regular basis in a waterproof container. A copy of your dogs vaccinations will also be important to have in case you need to board your dog.
  • First aid kit. Talk to your veterinarian about what is most appropriate for your pet’s emergency medical needs. 
  • Collar with ID tag, harness or leash. If your pet isn’t already microchipped and registered with a service like HomeAgain, you should consider it.
  • Crate or other pet carrier. 
  • Sanitation. Include pet litter and litter box for cats and waste bags for your dogs. 
  • A picture of you and your pet together. If you become separated from your pet during an emergency, a picture of you and your pet together will help you document ownership and allow others to assist you in identifying your pet. 
  • Familiar items. Put favorite toys, treats or bedding in your kit. Familiar items can help reduce stress for your pet. 

Make a plan:

  • Be prepared to assess the situation. Depending on your circumstances and the nature of the emergency the first important decision is whether you stay put or get away. You should understand and plan for both possibilities. 
  • Create a plan to get away. If you must evacuate, take your pets with you if practical. If not, find a pet-friendly hotel on, locate a boarding kennel (don’t forget those vaccination records!), or arrange ahead of time with a friend who can pet sit.
  • Develop a buddy system. Plan with neighbors, friends or relatives to make sure that someone is available to care for or evacuate your pets if you are unable to do so. 
  • Talk to your pet’s veterinarian about emergency planning. Discuss the types of things that you should include in your pet‘s emergency first aid kit. Get the names of vets or veterinary hospitals in other cities where you might need to seek temporary shelter.
  • Gather contact information for emergency animal treatment. Make a list of contact information and addresses of area animal control agencies including the Humane Society or SPCA, and emergency veterinary hospitals.

You may also want to consider creating a DropBox, Google Docs, or other cloud services account so you can access your pet’s records remotedly or share them with a friend. Most are free for casual use, and you’ll be able to upload photos of your pet, scans of their vaccine records, and contact information. Many of these services allow you to access your files from your iPhone or Android smartphone as well.

Holiday travel and pets


image courtesy of flickr user michaelwhays

I recently came across a list of tips for traveling with your pet – timely, considering many of us are starting to plan for the holidays. The top tip – calculating expenses – got me thinking. How much does it really cost to travel with your companion animal nowadays? And is it really worth it?

Wildly varying in-cabin costs

We’ve all experienced the nickel and diming increasingly common among airlines. Baggage fees, booking fees, and the like make it nearly impossible to accurately compare fares. Once you add the wide variety in pet-related fees, the cheapest ticket may not turn out to be such a great deal.

According to the aptly-named, fees for bringing your pet in the cabin range anywhere from $69 to $125 – double that for round-trip flights. 

Getting the right pet carrier

If you’re bringing your pet in the cabin with you in a carrier, it will be required to fit in the space under the seat in front of you, so it’s best to reserve a seat that isn’t in the bulkhead row. Airlines can enforce different restrictions on how big a carrier you’re allowed to use for your in-cabin pet. has collected the various airlines’ pet policies, with links to the airlines’ own pet travel pages.

If you don’t already own a carrier that conforms to your airline’s dimensions, buying a new one can cost anywhere from $30 to $100. Remember that your pet carrier will usually count as your one carry-on or personal item, so plan your packing accordingly.


If you have a long trip ahead of you, or just don’t want to submit your pet to the stress of travel, there are alternatives. Are they cheaper than traveling with your pet, though?

The boarding kennel I’ve taken my dog to here in Portland charges $25 per night for boarding with brief daily exercise included. Adding on walks and a bath (it’s always nice to come back to a clean dog!) costs extra. Portland pet sitters can cost anywhere from $20 per night for a cat who only needs looked in on once a day to over $50 per night to have someone stay overnight in your house and walk your dog several times a day.


Assuming an average pet carry-on fee of $100 each way and $50 to buy a carry-on approved carrier, it can cost $250 to bring your pet with you! For a four day trip (common for those of us visiting family at Thanksgiving), a pet sitter or boarding kennel will only cost between $100 and $200 – and you’ll avoid stressing yourself and your pet with the hassle of air travel.

All other things being equal, it may make more sense to find a reliable pet sitter or kennel to care for your pets if you’re traveling by air, especially for trips less than a week long. 


Dog attacks, dog fights, and how to prevent them.


Dr. Ian Dunbar wrote a Q&A for Modern Dog magazine regarding dog attacks and dog fights. Unfortunately, until Portland dog parks start providing pig boards to separate dogs, the most actionable advice is to teach your dog not to rile up other dogs, and not to respond when other dogs antagonize him.

But how do you teach your dog to “sit, shush, and watch me”? This was my question, considering that my dog has really only nailed the first of the three. 

It turns out the trick to “shush” is “speak” – once you’ve trained your dog to bark on command, he’s in the unique position of being calm while he’s vocalizing. It’s only after your dog has achieved this zen state that you can now teach him “shush” – a request/lure/response/reward loop that Dr. Dunbar has written about at DogStar Daily.

For “watch me”, I’d always wondered how you go from holding the treat up to your face to getting Jake to watch me when the treat is somewhere else – the curse of the food-motivated dog. I found the best version of the steps required in an eHow article, but the critical step is consistent regardless of where you learn this: waiting until the command is understood, then making food the reward instead of the lure.

It seems like a great deal of preparation for something that may or may not ever happen. But having seem the results of a dog fight gone out of hand, I’m more than willing to do my homework this time.

Is your dog at risk for canine influenza?

While it can’t be spread between dogs and humans, canine influenza can still be a serious threat to your furry friend’s health. The symptoms mimic kennel cough, and are often accompanied by low-grade fever, a drippy nose, listlessness, loss of appetite, and a cough that can last for up to a month. In severe cases, dogs can develop a high fever and pneumonia. If you’re curious what the flu cough sounds like, a YouTube user was kind enough to post a video:

Canine influenza virus (CIV) is highly contagious, and since it’s a relatively new virus, exposed dogs will usually be susceptible. Dogs spread their flu much as we do – through direct contact with infected pooches, or through infected surfaces. Boarding kennels, doggy daycares, groomers, and even obedience schools and dog parks can put your dog at risk. Outbreaks have been reported here in Oregon, as well as in several other states.

Fortunately, there’s a vaccine. And while it doesn’t prevent your dog from getting the flu, it can lessen the symptoms. While it’s not appropriate for all dogs, if your four-legged family member spends lots of time in close contact with other dogs, it may be worth asking your vet.