By Michelle Kramer-Fitzgerald

It’s clearer than ever that our pets play a significant role in our lives. They fill our social media accounts and photo displays; they dine out and travel with us; they cheer us up and calm us down. Our pets are family.

As dog mom to our pointer-shepherd mix Eli, it’s my mission to uncover the best options for his food, caregiving, entertainment, and general happiness. And I’m happy to report there are more choices than ever for pet parents to provide for their fur babies.

WASH & WAG

Grooming and bathing, especially for certain breeds, is critical to their comfort — and yours. Many options extend beyond the outdoor hose or a bathtub wrestling match, and here are a few:

Helene Buscemi of Claymont is a big fan of Top Dog Self-Wash (1516 Philadelphia Pike, Wilm.): “I’ve been taking my pug once a month since she was a puppy. She loves it there!” Buscemi said. “They fuss over her and make her feel safe. And, everything is taken care of. I don’t have to clean up like at home and get fur down the drain.” Top Dog provides brushes, towels, washcloths, shampoo, and even a sit-in air dryer for your dog. Aprons are also provided. 

Riverfront Pets (311 Justison Street, Wilm.) also offers a self-wash station, complete with roomy tubs and complimentary shampoo and towels. If you prefer someone else handle grooming duty, Riverfront offers a full menu of services from bathing to teeth and ear cleaning, de-shedding, and nail trimming. 

Other well-recommended groomers in the area include Muddy Paws Pet Salon (2118 Silverside Rd # 1C, Wilm.); Fluff Pet Salon (1704 Philadelphia Pike, Wilm.); and Precious Paws (501 Kirkwood Highway, Elsmere).

SITTIN’ PRETTY

Although the number of pet-friendly hotels and vacation properties are growing each year, there are times when you need (or want) to make a trip solo or just give them time for fun and exercise when you have a busy workday.

When we travel without Eli, we’ve had much success using online apps like Rover and Care.com, to secure an in-home sitter. These platforms enable to you see potential sitters’ credentials and specialties (e.g., pet first aid, senior pet care), read client reviews, as well as set up in-home interviews and “meet and greets” to determine the best match for your pet. But there are other ways to ensure your pet is safe and sound when/if you travel without them. 

Locally, daycares like Dogtopia (Wilmington and Elsmere locations), and Dog Dayz Doggie Day Care (3000 W. 2nd Street, Wilm.), and Camp Bow Wow (301 Ruthar Drive, Newark) are great choices for providing safe, supervised exercise and socialization. 

Gaby and Lew Indellini of Wilmington note the go-to regular for their pups, Clementine and Reds, is Dog Dayz for multiple reasons.

“With Reds in particular, it’s been amazing,” Gaby said. “Previous to going to daycare, he didn’t know how to play and be around other dogs. Now, he and Clementine are the ones who teach our friends’ puppies how to play! Clementine has been going [to Dog Dayz] since she was a puppy; she’s so well behaved and friendly, and we’re sure it’s because of having that one day a week all-day play with her friends.”

IN CASE OF CAT-ASTROPHE

With nearly 2/3 of American households owning a pet, this insurance sector has seen a tremendous boom. A 2022 report from the North American Pet Health Insurance Association shows that nearly 4.4 million pets were insured in North America at the end of last year. Since 2017, the average annual growth rate of insured pets is 21.5%, with dogs comprising the majority of insured pets (approximately 82%; cats represent approximately 18%).

Mainstream companies like Nationwide, Progressive, and USAA now offer insurance plans for Fido and Fluffy, but pet-specific companies like Petly, ASCPA Pet Insurance (two that we’ve used), Fetch, Spot, and Trupanion offer an array of coverage packages as well. 

Speaking from experience, a pet insurance plan is a smart acquisition as you welcome a pet into your home, especially if you later must address emergency or chronic illness situations.  

BARKWORTHY BITES

In polling pet parent friends and local dog park-goers, we’ve compiled a list of a few favorite treats and cool gifts to consider. 

Tamara Lee of Wilmington says her boys love GiggyBites Bakery for Dogs (100 Ridge Road, #4, Chadds Ford), where she has been shopping since 2007 for treats, birthday cakes, and much more. “Actually, I enjoy going there as much as they do,” she says. 

“They have great treats and the people who work there are awesome. They have events for dogs and humans throughout the year. Their holiday meals are something my boys have always enjoyed. The birthday cakes and goodies are favorites, not just with my boys, but all of their bark park friends. It’s well worth the trip!”

Amy Watson Bish of Wilmington reports that their pup, Gracie, is a big fan of Waggies by Maggie & Friends (1310 Carruthers Lane, Wilm.), a non-profit dog treat company. Their all-natural, vet-approved treats not only reward your dog but also support employment for people with intellectual disabilities. 

Something a bit more unique is a product out of New Jersey called Dawg Butter. Produced by Paw Power Nutrition, this all-natural lick-able treat comes in four flavors, is gluten and xylitol (an ingredient found in some commercial peanut butters which is harmful to dogs) free, and best of all, every purchase supports rescue dogs by donating a portion of the proceeds to regional agencies. 

STYLE FOR THE CATWALK

Want to add some flair to your pet’s everyday look? Check out these stylish and charitable gifts! 

Bow Tie Atticus creates wildly colorful “Accessories with Atti-tude” in their bowties for cats & dogs. All designs are made-to-order with clever themes (e.g., ‘Finian’ is the rainbow-colored tie; ‘Prickles’ the cactus-themed tie), and each month Atticus and his crafty mom donate to a portion of their proceeds to a different rescue organization or animal-related charity. 

Leeann Wallet of Wilmington recently began her local business, The Handmade Hen, which creates handmade felt bowties and headbands for fur babies (and human babies, too). Four festive design options include a flat bow, rose, swirl flower, or artist’s choice in an array of colors. Hers are a unique twist on pet fashion.

Another new pet fashion business I discovered through a friend belongs to Ruff Tags by Amy & Bailey. The two partners create hand-crafted custom resin tags in fun-themed, lively designs detailed to your or your special pet’s interests — think Philadelphia Eagles fanatic, doughnut lover, spaniel superhero, dazzling diva, and much more. 

Make your pet’s life even richer with these many choices! 

Ruff Tabs by Amy & Bailey are handcrafted resin ID tags for pets that are available in clever and colorful designs.

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