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Holiday Guide 2014: Gone to the dogs

Places to shop (locally) for pet lovers on your list

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ILLUSTRATION BY JOHN LAFREE
  • ILLUSTRATION BY JOHN LAFREE

In my circles, I’m usually known as the Dog Lover – that friend or family member who’s always had dogs, posts way too many photos of dogs to Facebook and to whom people tend to gravitate when they find stray dogs.

So, naturally, when the holidays roll around, people buy me dog things. It’s a very nice gesture, and I now have a pretty awesome collection of dog-themed art, books, funny clothing for my dogs and other cool canine-inspired odds and ends. However, there is such a thing as having too many ceramic picture frames with sayings about how pets leave pawprints on your heart (and that number is one, by the way – nobody needs any of these), or T-shirts that identify one as a “fur mommy” (I cringe when people say that, seriously).

Gift selection is hard, I know, and you want your holiday shopping to be quick and painless – but you don’t want your gift to make the recipient cringe, or have it end up in the box at the bottom of a closet. So here are a few cool (primarily local-ish) ideas for the dog- (or cat-, ferret- or horse-) lover on your list:

Pet caricatures: Nobody likes looking at a caricature of themselves, but they’ll totally dig cool illos of their beloved pets. John LaFree of Wesley Chapel has a fantastically anthropomorphic style that’s reminiscent of Ralph Steadman – he can do custom caricatures, or you can select a cool print of specific breeds of dogs
or cats from his online store at johnlafree.com (starting at $20). I love his karaoke pit bull and his smug Airedales, in particular. Orlando artist Maria Bolton-Joubert also does pets (and wild animals), and her style is particularly whimsical, upbeat and downright adorable without being cloying. Check her Etsy shop (etsy.com/shop/HurricanaMaria) for fun, colorful line drawings of owls, cats, possums and more (starting at $10).

Cool dog collars: Get locally made collars for dogs or cats from a local pet store – Barking Mad Dog Gear is an Orlando-based pet-gear company that sells its products online and in select local pet shops. Check out Magic Pet (4836 New Broad St., magicpetflorida) or Woofgang Bakery, Lake Nona (10743 Narcoossee Road, woofgangbakery.com), both of which carry their products, or order online at barkingmaddogwear.com (collars start at $12).

The gift of learning: Dog people are kinda crazy, right? So they like doing crazy things with/for their dogs. Rocky’s Retreat (2628 Shader Road, rockysretreat.com) offers not just canine massage, acupressure, reiki and aromatherapy, but classes that’ll teach you how to do canine massage, acupressure, reiki and aromatherapy yourself (classes start at $50).

Don’t forget the pets: The fastest way to a pet-lover’s heart is through their dog’s (or cat’s) stomach, of course, so you can’t go wrong with a gift basket full of such delectables as all-natural dried beef tracheas, duck feet, salmon tails and bully sticks. Yes, these are all things you can buy for your pet at most natural pet stores. Try Planet Pet (1980 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park, facebook.com/planetpetstore), Pookie’s Bow Wow Bakery (1500 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park, pookiesbowwowbakery.com), any local Woofgang Bakery franchise store (woofgangbakery.com), or Woof Orlando (3529 Edgewater Drive), which also has its own dog “bar,” featuring an array of locally made pet treats, cookies and chews.

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