The Pets Issue

Walking, drinking, poking, and BARFing -- tips, tricks, tales (and cocktails) for your best friend. Plus: local pet stores we love


Hooch with the pooch: Local bars that cater to the canine crowd

Bark if you like needles: Acupuncture and holistic medicine is a fast-growing trend in animal treatment -- and the veterinary establishment is slowly catching on


Finding the right dog walker: Some tips from the pros


Is BARFing good for your pet? The raw food diet has devoted supporters — and harsh critics


Animal Connection isn't peddling short-lived hamsters or toilet-bound goldfish. The Sunset District store aims to provide customers with scaly roommates and feathered friendships that last. "We want to connect animals and people, and have them live happily and responsibly in a successful relationship," says store manager Jennifer Grafelman.

Originally specializing in general pet supplies and birds, the store has since gone exotic, carrying everything from blood-fin tetras to cockatoos to fire-bellied salamanders to chinchillas.

The place has that pet store smell, a mix between grocery store bulk grain aisle and greenhouse aviary. Behind the register desk, assistant manager Joe Taylor has a chirping, green-feathered handful. "Tatter," a rainbow lorikeet named for his fondness for sweet potatoes, is belly up in Taylor's palm enjoying a stomach rub. Although he's for sale, not just anybody can take the bird home; the staff discourages capricious purchases. "He's super-playful, but that bird is not for everybody," Taylor said. "He's messy, has a real specific diet, and is loud."

The employees at Animal Connection are specialists — something that sets the local business apart from chain stores. If your bearded dragon refuses to snap up crickets or your parakeet is losing plumage, they can provide advice or inform you a vet trip is necessary. 2550 Judah, (415) 564-6482 (Skyler Swezy)



George Lo is trimming a field of grass that carpets a gently rising hill until it meets a vertical rock face; he's using a pair of scissors. The picturesque landscape is submerged in an aquarium two feet long. A half dozen red-bee shrimp are scattered across the hill grazing on plankton in the grass. They resemble countryside cattle. Three cardinal tetras circle the rock like birds in flight.

At Aqua Forest Aquarium in lower Pacific Heights, Lo, 31, creates underwater gardens with imported aquatic plants. His was the first store in the United States to specialize in the "nature aquarium" style, which was invented by Japanese native Takashi Amano.


I think "The Dog Issue" is a more appropriate title.

Posted by Guest JH on Mar. 31, 2010 @ 10:47 am

Well, you can't do everything with one issue. We were a little dog-heavy on this one, but I promise the next pets issue will address other creatures as well.

Posted by tim on Mar. 31, 2010 @ 11:42 am

Highly disappointed in your pets issue. Dogs are visible because they get walked. I shall boycott your fishwrapper until cats and other pets are included.

Posted by Cats are Pets! on Mar. 31, 2010 @ 12:53 pm

As the proud papa to this year's Cutest Cat Jose...I would just like to say "thank you" to the Guardian and the wonderful community of SF for voting for our little buddy. He is a charming, loving animal with lots of personality. He truly brings joy to our home. My wife and I both work in the non-profit world, doing much needed work, but often is stressful. Jose's daily cuddling brings a needed respite from the stresses of everyday life. Again, thank you for honoring our Jose!

Posted by Guest on Mar. 31, 2010 @ 1:41 pm

If we'd written more about cats we would have gotten the same comment from dog lovers. It's just one issue, we can't do it all. But cats also have issues with raw food, if you read that story, and with holistic vets, if you read that one; the same things apply. And our favorite pet stores are not just dog stores.

Posted by tim on Mar. 31, 2010 @ 2:04 pm

That's B.S. from a typical dog owner/lover who can't understand that cats deserve EQUAL standing with dogs. The cover said it all. I am UP TO HERE with dogs but most especially frequently inconsiderate dog owners and also those who have no business having pets at all and just get a dog as preparation for having a human baby. (I see them in the park "walking" their dogs while talking on their omnipresent cell phones.) So stop already with your feable attempt at rationalizing.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 04, 2010 @ 12:01 pm

Time to take a chill pill... have some compassion for ALL animals if you are a cat lover, including humans, please...

Posted by Guest on Jun. 24, 2010 @ 11:09 am

SOO disappointed to see this lame anti-raw BS in print!! Science Diet is among the WORST foods one can feed their dog...the quality of the meat and the amount of grains and other stuff is horrible for their systems. It's no mistake that many vets "recommend' this.... they get an extremely minimal education regarding nutrition in vet school which is brought to them by - you guessed it - Science Diet and IAMS. There are studies that show the majority of the meat in commercial kibble is 3D (dead, diseased, decaying) and/ or is rendered from dead dogs and cats - gross!! Thank you, I'd prefer to buy my dogs food from a source where I absolutely KNOW where the meat and all ingredients are coming from.

I am so bummed that a cool, progressive paper like SFBG would print this garbage.

Posted by Guest pamellabean on Mar. 31, 2010 @ 3:07 pm

what up Tilly!

Posted by ARIOCH on Mar. 31, 2010 @ 3:59 pm

When I first saw the cover of this issue, something inside of me for some reason got excited. Especially since one of the topics mentioned on the cover was the topic of raw foods. "Finally!" I thought, "Raw food is being publicized in a semi-credible publication such as the Guardian." The contents of the article were about as disappointing as they could be. First, the testimonials in favor of raw food all come from laypersons. There are many holistic veterinarians that would be more than happy to show their support for raw food, including their experience with raw food dramatically improving the health and lives of many pet clients. Instead, all of the vets interviewed were lukewarm at best about raw food. The article barely touches on the science of raw food, instead focusing on why it might not be safe. One of the topics that the article touched on was the possibility of the meat being contaminated and either harming the pet, or the pet discharging this bacteria in their feces for another dog, or person to be harmed by. I would agree that meat from a CAFO would not be desirable, or safe food to be fed to your dog cooked or uncooked. I will not go into the specifics on whyu

Posted by David on Mar. 31, 2010 @ 5:16 pm

I am delighted to see veterinary acupuncture and raw feeding get write ups in The Guardian, but seriously:

We're in San Francisco, for goodness sakes. We have a raw feeding co-op! ( We are home to fantastic holistic vets who support responsibly produced raw diets. We're home to locally produced raw foods! There's no reason to be referencing veterinary consultants in Knoxville, TN or vet blogs.

It's nice to see veterinary acupuncture used as an adjunctive to western practices, but again, there are fantastic holistic vets who don't view it as the second choice treatment. It's safe and embodies the first, do-no-harm philosophy that should be leading the decisions made by our veterinarians.

There's a reason vets recommend Science Diet. It's familiar. It's the company that more than likely provided the minimal nutritional training portion of their education. It's often given free to vet students to feed their own animals.

Feeding your pet a balanced diet made from fresh ingredients is a matter of common sense. No parent would respect the advice of a pediatrician who recommended giving their child only packaged, premixed, processed foods for life. In line with common veterinary recommendations, make that one kind of food, one kind of formula for life.

The safety record for balanced raw feeding is outstanding and rivals that of canned or dry foods. This is especially true when we choose ranged, hormone and anti-biotic free meats to feed our pets. The level of harmful bacteria is significantly lower in the meat of ethically raised animals and is more than balanced by the beneficial bacteria (probiotics) available in raw meat. We're also working with the remarkable biology of the carnivore digestive tract, which is short and acidic and able to handle bacterial loads that could be harmful to a human.

Processed pet foods are a relatively new phenomenon, initially designed as a way to discard of indigestible protein material and poor quality commodities no longer consumable by humans. In the worst foods, that protein is sourced from dead, diseased and dying animals and these commodities can contain aflatoxins that can lead to cancers and organ damage. After generations of crap-feeding, we are dealing with immune compromised animals with massive allergies, diet-related conditions like diabetes and diseases of the digestive tract and cancers.

I would love to see more longterm research that supports raw feeding and hope that the veterinary profession will find the value in that research. But let's face it, healthy animals do not go to the vet as often. If vets aren't seeing these animals, they aren't supporting raw feeding. Like Susan Yannes from Pawtrero said, "People who try this don't go back."

Posted by Anna Thiel on Mar. 31, 2010 @ 5:34 pm

Folks, I know there was no way to discuss the entire complex world of raw food for pets in one short article. All I hoped to do was give people an overview -- of the raw food supporters and why they think it's a great solution, along with a sample of the critics who raise questions. There's a whole lot more to be said about this issue, I agree. If there are vets who think this is the best way to feed your dog or cat, I hope they post here -- most of the vets I spoke to (and I didn't talk to or quote ANY vets who got money from or worked for the pet food industry) had some concerns. They weren't against it -- they just had some concerns. Which I think is fair.

Posted by tim on Mar. 31, 2010 @ 6:08 pm

That's B.S. from a typical dog owner/lover who can't understand that cats deserve EQUAL standing with dogs. The cover said it all. I am UP TO HERE with the dominance of dogs in the city (reminds me of the '70s when we had dog shit all over the sidewalks and Harvey Milk's much appreciated "Pooper Scooper" ordinance) but most especially frequently inconsiderate dog owners and also those who have no business having pets at all and just get a dog as preparation for having a human baby. (I see them in the park "walking" their dogs while talking on their omnipresent cell phones.Then later you see them "walking" the dog and pushing the baby stroller, still yacking away on their cell phones, so neither child nor dog gets interaction/attention. Also, the picture of the "dog walker" with seven (?) dogs is classic; I think a law should be passed that "dog walkers" can only have three dogs at a time. Several times I have seen five or more "walkers" with dogs out of control -- well, big surpise!) So just because we're going through another "dog" phase in the city (likely due to all the 20-30 somethings preparing for children, and this issue blatantly panders to that demographic -- doesn't mean that in the coming decade we'll see a return to the preference for cats. I can't wait! CATS RULE!!!

Posted by Guest on Apr. 04, 2010 @ 12:17 pm

Enjoyed your "dogs" issue.

It is interesting / depressing to me as a British visitor to the US that most dogs I see here have been cosmetically altered. In Europe it is no less than illegal to do any of the following:
-dock a dogs tail (with a few exceptions),
-crop a Doberman ears,
-remove a dog's jew claws,
-de-clawed a cat,
-to physically alter your pet for any cosmetic reason.

In the US it is so normal that no one questions it. Frankly is disgusts me, what is wrong with you people?

Posted by Jon on Apr. 08, 2010 @ 6:48 pm

Also from this author