A Dog Day Afternoon

by Emily Zulz

Actress Sigourney Weaver held a wedding for the neighbor’s Greyhound and her Italian Greyhound, Petals. Paris Hilton’s Chihuahua, Tinkerbell, has become a fashion icon with her clothing line for pets.

Singer Shania Twain’s German Shepherd, Tim, has his own doggy door on the tour bus. Mimi LaRue, actress Tori Spelling’s recently deceased pug, was often seen wearing designer doggy clothes and riding in a stroller. And Elton John loves his Cocker Spaniel, Arthur, so much, he made him the best man at his civil ceremony.

Add your faithful canine’s name to this list of pampered pets—you may not be a celebrity, but don’t let that stop you! We didn’t when we spent an afternoon with Crystal, our managing editor’s six-year-old American pit bull terrier.

Make your puppy into a piece of art

When Genevieve Schlueter was a young girl, she loved dogs so much she wanted to be one when she grew up. This deep love for dogs—and her love of art—eventually led her to a logical conclusion: becoming a pet portraitist, her primary focus on cats and dogs.

With no formal training, Schlueter calls her talent a “God-given gift.” Her detailed, one-of-a-kind portraits are done by hand with a graphite pencil, which allows her to keep her prices affordable. Just send her a photo of your precious pooch, and come away with a detailed depiction that will leave you breathless.

While she has loved dogs all her life, Schlueter only recently started making portraits. While working at the Clubs at River City, she began showing people her work, and before she knew it, she was getting commissions. That was when she thought she might actually be able to do this for a living.

“From the moment everybody took an interest at River City, I thought, ‘Okay, this is what I need to be doing,’” Schlueter explained. “Within a year, I was gone from there and home.” By Christmas, she was booked solid.

A pet portrait can be the perfect gift for any special occasion, and may be just the answer for those hard-to-buy-for people. As a pet owner herself, Schlueter understands just how much people love their faithful companions. “[A portrait] really shows just how much you, the pet owner, love the pet,” Schlueter said, “especially for those that have a dog that’s ailing or is passed. It’s a great way to memorialize or remember them in their bright youth.”

Schlueter’s grandfather was also an artist, and she’s very thankful he passed his skill on to her. “I just feel like I’ve died and gone to heaven,” she said. “I get to stay home and sketch full time…be home with my puppies and set my own schedule.” Schlueter has found her calling.

Treat your pet to food so yummy, you could eat it

At Three Dog Bakery, they don’t consider their product dog food—but rather, food for dogs, said owner David Cunningham. Three Dog Bakery, the original bakery for dogs, started in Kansas City in 1989, and has since expanded to more than 30 locations throughout the country. The location at Junction City in Peoria opened in December 2006.

Three Dog Bakery formulates and makes all their food. The operating bakery at the store uses only 100-percent, human-quality ingredients. Their products are all-natural, with no artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, fillers, refined sugars or added salts. And all of the products in the store are made with ingredients that can be found in a kitchen cupboard!

Sitting there in display cases, looking quite scrumptious, are treats bursting with flavor, from peanut butter to carrot cake, from yogurt-flavored icing to carob. (They really are quite tasty—a fact I can attest to, after sampling one of their doggie cookies!) “We have so many different flavors that if a dog doesn’t like one, we’re pretty confident they’ll like another. We like to say that we have not yet had a dog bring anything back,” joked Cunningham.

“Everybody who walks in our door is greeted, and we know we do a good job when the doggies leave and their tails are wagging,” he added.

My Dog’s Bakery is another culinary destination for your four-legged friend. Vicky Gardner, a loyal customer since its opening, recently took over the bakery. She purchased the store in May and now has locations in the Shoppes at Grand Prairie and Metro Centre. Like Three Dog Bakery, all the products at My Dog’s Bakery are made in the United States, with no by-products or preservatives. If your dog is allergic to wheat, soy or corn, My Dog’s Bakery offers grain-free products, and they bake their natural treats weekly to keep them fresh.

The decorated treats come in two flavors, beef or cinnamon. Gardner introduced a new shape this year—the goldfish. “We’re always trying to do different types of designs,” she said. “You know…like a dog’s really going to know the difference, but its fun for humans—we have to be entertained too!” Decorated birthday cakes are also very popular.

And the store offers more than just edible treats. “It’s not just biscuits and cookies,” Gardner added. “It’s an all-service [store]—from your dog’s regular daily food to treats and toys…and even winter coats and raincoats.” Brightly colored Tuffy Toys, geared for the aggressive chewing dog, and luxurious, fluffy beds with polka-dot and leopard prints are unique to the store and must-have pampering items.

My Dog’s Bakery also offers a variety of clothing, collars and leashes. One favorite is the funky and stylish Walk-e-Woo dog collar. Gardner bought one in Arizona for her male German Shepherd, and when he began raking in the compliments, she ordered the line for the Grand Prairie location. “I think [dogs] know when they look fashionable. They get a lot of praise, and they just love to be praised.”

The store offers a wide variety of higher-end toys, but don’t expect to find any single item in bulk. “We’ll have three or four, so it’s kind of like that retail dress shop where you know no one else in Peoria is going to have one like it.” And with all the fun items around the store, Gardner’s primary focus remains promoting their healthy treats. There’s no better way to pamper a pet, she said.

Make your dog look and feel as good as you

Dogs love a trip to Guccipucci, a pet spa on Prospect Road, where they receive constant attention and pampering. Owner Amee Suydam opened the shop six years ago. “I just basically wanted to make dogs look cute,” she said. She originally learned the trade in Chicago, apprenticing there with a world champion groomer for a year. After stints at Caterpillar and State Farm, Suydam decided to get back into dog grooming. That’s when she opened the store and built from scratch the client list they have today. On average, the shop beautifies 25 dogs every day. At Guccipucci, the dogs are not put into cages; instead, they can run free, socialize with one another and make friends.

Guccipucci handles all the facets of grooming—bathing, brushing, fluff drying, hand stripping of terriers and de-shedding. They’ll dye their hair any color and do any cut you desire. They also do dogs’ nails, ears and teeth, and handle some cats as well.

Guccipucci stands out from the grooming pack with its doggie daycare and hydrotherapy bath. They use high-end products, and everything is human-grade, all-natural and hypo-allergenic. But most importantly, they just want their clients’ pets to look and feel good.

On the day of their appointment, the dogs arrive in the morning. Most small dogs will stay three or four hours, while puppies and bigger dogs, with more energy, stay longer. They play and socialize for the first hour, and their second hour is prep for the bath, which includes a brush and often a trim. The bath is followed by a blow-dry and then a break to rest. At the end of their stay, the dogs get their hair cut, nails clipped and ears cleaned before being treated with cologne and topped off with a bow or tie.

“They always have a lot of positive reinforcement when they go home,” noted Suydam, as her clients revel in their pets’ good looks. This positive reinforcement can sometimes lead to diva-like personalities, which she sees in several of the dogs. “A lot of them—I think that they get their hair done so much they think they look awesome when they’re done,” she said. “They really prance around.”

Keep your dog in shape

Dog parks are popping up throughout central Illinois. A quick trip to one of these area locations will result in a happily tired dog.

The Morton Dog Park, located within the woods of Morton’s Oakwood Park, was the first of its kind in the area. The three-acre, fully enclosed, leash-free facility opened three years ago. It is separated into two conjoined areas—one for small dogs, the other for large dogs—and the entrance is double-gated to provide safety. Ample room is available to run around and socialize. Morton spent about $15,000 to develop the park after receiving numerous requests from residents.

The Chillicothe Park District opened the Walnut Dog Park at the end of May. The leash-free facility, which cost about $30,000, is located at River Beach Drive on a floodplain that hadn’t been used in awhile. It is open from sunrise to sunset and includes a pond located within the facility.

In 2007, a committee was formed to propose a Peoria Dog Park to the Peoria Park District. The committee raised $30,000, to be matched with an additional amount by the Park District. Greatly helping the cause was a $10,000 donation from Brewster, the grand-prize winner of BISSELL Homecare, Inc.’s Most Valuable Pet contest. The five-acre dog park will be located in lower Bradley Park and will feature fencing, drainage, watering stations, benches, poop-bag dispensers, ample parking and plenty of shade.

Due to a generous $100,000 donation from an anonymous dog lover, there will soon be a Pekin Dog Park. The Pekin Park District will use this money to build a 1½-acre dog park in Mineral Springs Park, which will include doggie watering stations, waste clean-up stations, 16 new trees and a six-foot-tall fence.

Keep your dog safe

When Leona Helmsley, the famously ill-tempered real estate mogul and hotelier, died last summer, her Maltese, Trouble, inherited $12 million. While the inheritance was later reduced to (just) $2 million, Trouble is still sitting pretty.

Estate planning for pets has skyrocketed in recent years. Perhaps this is because about 63 percent of households, or 71.1 million homes, now own a pet, according to the APPMA. While some pet owners put provisions in their wills that leave their pets to friends or relatives, others are going the more enforceable route with pet trusts. A pet trust lets you set aside specific funds for your pet’s care and name a caregiver and trustee to manage the funds.

As reported in the Wall Street Journal, 39 states and jurisdictions currently recognize pet estate planning, but the cost for this service can be very high. A stand-alone pet trust could cost, at minimum, $1,500. For more information related to pet estate plans, visit estateplanningforpets.org.

Worried about your pet’s health and safety while you’re still alive? Pet insurance offers a solution to help offset pricey vet bills. According to the APPMA, Americans spent $10.1 billion in veterinary care last year, up 40 percent from 2002. Currently, there are two million pet insurance subscribers in the U.S.—that’s three percent of pet owners, a number expected to rise to between five and seven percent of pet owners by 2010. a&s

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