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Bernal Beast, Pawtrero and South Paw

Pet Pleasing Purchases

I will admit with no shame that I spoil Guinevere, my Staffordshire Bull Terrier. For her 10th birthday last year, I bought her an ox-blood red leather collar with silver stars and a black leather leash to replace the old nylon ones she had been sporting for years. For Christmas, I gave her a furry squeaky toy in the shape of a fox that she managed to rip up in about two weeks. I also feed her organic dry dog food and indulge her addiction to what I call 'dog crack', otherwise known as Greenies chew treats.

I know I'm not the only one. According to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association 2005-2006 National Pet Owners Survey, 80 percent of dog owners and 63 percent of cat owners purchase gifts for their family pets, and not just for birthdays, but holidays such as Christmas and Valentine's Day. In addition to gifts, pet owners splurge on gourmet food and food fortified with supplements and added vitamins and minerals.

Your neighborhood pet storeowners know this.

On Cortland Avenue up in Bernal Heights, you'll find Bernal Beast, run by co-owners Michelle McAnanama and Tony Charisanthis. Just like the Bernal Heights neighborhood, Bernal Beast has the friendly feeling of a small town shop. Customers and pets alike are often greeted by name and the shop workers chat with the customers to catch up on the latest. And there's always a bowl of treats up by the register for the dogs.

Bernal Beast caters mostly to cat and dog owners, but also carries items like hamster food and bird seed. The only live animals they carry are goldfish, for $3.99 each. Bernal Beast offers items for all of your pet's basic needs, such as California Natural chicken meal and rice formula dry dog food in a 20lb bag for $20.49, a shiny blue, green and gold metallic leash for $19.99, or Nature's Miracle odor remover in a 32-ounce bottle for $7.89. And if you don't have your own pet, you can always pick up a bag of wild bird seed for $4.29 for a 4-pound bag to attract the avian wildlife in your area.

If you come in with your dog, he'll likely lead you to the back wall of the front room, where there are all kinds of treats at dog sniffing level, including the assorted bulk treats at $1.99 a pound. Bernal Beast also carries a variety of toys, and if your dog is of a left-leaning political nature, he may leap upon the Dick Cheney squeaky chew toy for $12.99.

As you step down into the second room, you'll find more of the creature comforts such as beds, grooming tools and pet apparel. If your dog is feeling a bit country, he can dude up in a black cowboy hat for $19.99. For a sail on the seas, he can slip on a sailor hat for $17.99. Or if he's feeling a chill, he can sport a fashionable lime green sweater for $42.99

If you'd like to hose off your sandy pup after a romp at the beach, you're welcome to use Bernal Beast's self pet wash for a flat fee of $12.00, which includes use of their tub, towels, grooming table and dryer.

Over on Mississippi Street at the bottom of Potrero Hill is Pawtrero Hill BathHouse & Feed Co. Pawtrero has a laid-back old western general store feeling. A long counter stretches out from the front door, lined with large glass candy jars of dog treats, such as huge Moab dry bones for $7.70. Worn wood shelves line the walls and aisles, stocked with many of the necessities for your cat or dog, like a 24-ounce stainless steel non-slip food bowl for $5.68, a nine-pack of Stella & Chewy's Mini Steaks for $10.00, or Nutrive herb blend stomach soothing detox formula supplement for $15.37 a bag. You can also find resource books such as The Dog Lover's Companion to the Bay Area, which highlights the best parks, restaurants and hotels that accommodate your canine, for $17.95 or the Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats for $24.95.

In what appears to have been once a spacious kitchen area at the back, Pawtrero offers two tubs for self-service dog washing for a flat-fee of $15.00. In addition, Pawtrero also offers other services such as adoption days with local rescue organizations and a once a month anesthesia-free Doggie Dentist (for both dogs and cats).

In the back room behind the counter, you'll find a couple of coolers stocked with raw food. No, it's not for the diet that celebrities like Demi Moore found so fashionable a year or so ago, but raw meats, including raw bones and chicken necks for $1.39, intended for your pet's meal as an alternative or in addition to dry food.

And coming soon, outdoorsy types will be able to find a camping section with packs, floating devices, tents and mukluks for their dogs.

In June of this year, Pawtrero owners Shireen Pye and Suzie Yannes opened their new beach-themed location towards the end of Brannan Street in South Beach, dubbed South Paw Bathhouse & Feed Co. In contrast to the more old-time mercantile feel of Pawtrero, South Paw is painted with livelier colors. The walls and counters are of a light wood, and there's even a surfboard table. Though the personalities of the stores are different, South Paw carries most of the same quality products that you will find at Pawtrero.

If you don't live in either of these neighborhoods, it's likely that your own neighborhood has a pet shop like these with its own personality, ready to pamper your pet.