When the Manhattan Sideways team entered Mia’s Bathhouse during the summer of 2017, we were greeted by the enthusiastic barking of Bella, the five-month-old German Shepherd mix who was watching over the shop alongside her owner, Melody, the manager of Mia’s. She very kindly offered to chat with us about the business while Bella acted as a model for our photographer. LaChena, who also owns the adjacent laundromat, Sudsy Water, opened Mia’s Bathhouse in November 2014. Not only does Mia's offer full service grooming, but also the unique service of self-washing. In fact, Melody told us that they are the only groomers in Harlem with self-serve dog washing available. This has made Mia's a popular option in the neighborhood, since, as Melody pointed out, “It beats doing it in a bathtub at home. ” For those who prefer to leave the pampering to the attendants, the store also has chairs available so “our pet parents can sit and watch their baby get groomed. ”Mia’s also does its best to give back to their community. “We love rescues here, ” Melody exclaimed, adding that there is a ten percent discount on services and merchandise for all rescue dogs. There are also “breed months, ” where certain dogs are selected each month to receive discounted services.
When I first walked into Doggie Dearest, I had no idea that it was one of the oldest businesses on 5th Street. The reception area was decorated with leafy green plants and painted a cheerful shade of “dog’s ear pink, ” and the owner, Evelyn, took a break from grooming to share her story. Now a fixture on 5th, Doggie Dearest started out as a hobby. “I was bartending and working as a personal assistant, ” Evelyn said, “and I decided to take a grooming class. ” She discovered that she had a talent for the work and in 1993, Doggie Dearest was born. Though the business has grown over the years, Evelyn has not hired a large staff. She and her assistant do all of the grooming work, and she prides herself on the individualized care she gives to each pet. While other groomers often keep cats and dogs waiting for hours, Doggie Dearest is structured like a human hair salon, so that each animal gets a personal appointment. Evelyn also describes herself as the “first line of defense” against diseases: she has often alerted pet owners to symptoms they would never have noticed themselves. Between rising rents and her own battle with cancer, it has been difficult for Evelyn to keep the business afloat, but she keeps going, because she loves the work. “I even love the crazy dog people, ” she added, laughing.
Puppy Loft is a small, friendly center for pups. The shop provides daycare, grooming services, and even sells dog goods and doggy outfits. Our favorite part of Puppy Loft, though, was the big window that looks into the open play space filled with dogs hanging out, socializing and curling up on funny little pooch-sized armchairs.
No one knows if there is a key to the door of the Animal Medical Center. The veterinary hospital has never needed one: it has been running for twenty-four hours each day ever since it opened in 1962. The history of AMC, however, runs deeper; Ellin Prince Speyer, the founder of the Women’s Auxiliary to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, planted the seeds of the Center in 1909 when the Auxiliary established a clinic for animals whose owners were not financially able to go to existing veterinary hospitals. The Center was a success, thus allowing the organization to begin raising funds for a permanent animal care facility. This goal was seen to fruition in 1914 when a hospital opened on the Lower East Side. In 1960, construction began on the current grounds, which is now one of the few teaching veterinary hospitals in the world. Over one thousand veterinarians from around the globe have come through training at the AMC. Upon entering the eight-floor building and seeing the tiled animal mural decorating the elevators, I was met by the Center's enthusiastic public relations person, Barbara Ross. She was eager to give me a guided tour of the facilities. As she led me through the first hallway, I met Matt, sitting in his scrubs with one hand on his computer and the other holding a small dog. This was the perfect image to set the stage for my walk. The building mirrored a human hospital, but with a more relaxed atmosphere and animals of all shapes and sizes being attended to and comforted by staff members. It was a special moment for me when I stepped into Dr. Stephen Riback's dental office, where he agreed with my initial impression: "It's more like a people hospital than an animal hospital. " I was proud to watch this warm and gentle man, whom I have known my entire life, taking care of a dog that had just been through major dental surgery. Stephen explained that he had removed some teeth from the King Charles Spaniel who had periodontal disease - which causes the bone in the dog's gums to recede from the teeth. Stephen assured me that the dog would be much happier now, and that the other organs would be saved from the ailments that often follow from progressive periodontal symptoms. The dog's adorable little tongue was clamped in a permanent lolling position, and the woman assisting in the operation made sure that his open eyes were moistened while he was sedated. Stephen went on to tell me about some of the other dental operations he has handled: he has performed root canal procedures on police dogs that break their teeth during "bite" work, and he once utilized his dental expertise on a Bengal Tiger at the Bronx Zoo. As a rule, doctors from AMC do not work at the zoos, since both Central Park and the Bronx have their own medical team. Dentistry, however, is not taught at most veterinary schools, so Stephen is often called upon for his unique skills. After saying good-bye to Stephen, I stepped back into the hallway with Barbara, where she told me about a recent case of a dog who arrived on 62nd Street blind and left being able to see after the removal of its cataracts. Clearly medical miracles are performed at AMC. On the subject of blindness, Barbara mentioned that every guide dog is treated without charge. Though animals occasionally come in for general wellness visits, for the most part they are admitted for problems that regular vets cannot handle. As Barbara said, "The animals are primarily the sickest of the sick. "Continuing on, Barbara proudly pointed out the imposing CT scan and MRI machines, and commented that "some human hospitals do not own anything close to this level of equipment. " I was then shown a series of astonishing photographs of a young horse receiving a CAT scan. Following this, Barbara led me to a hybrid operating room for interventional endoscopy and radiology, which she said is the only one of its kind in the world. And, if I had not been impressed enough, I was then made aware of the hospital's underwater treadmill that aides animals with arthritis and hip dysplasia. When I looked at Barbara in amazement, she explained that staff members entice their patients with peanut butter, thereby encouraging them to swim forward to lick this treat. This allows them to participate in physical therapy. Brilliant! Barbara shared with me that there have often been times over the decades that human physicians have collaborated with veterinarians, including teaming up with Sloan Kettering where, together, they came up with the first canine vaccine for cancer. From what I witnessed, opening their medical center in the same vicinity as what is termed Hospital Row was the perfect decision back in the 1960s. And there is no doubt that these animals are treated with the same care and professional expertise as the human patients surrounding them.
It will quickly become apparent to any Manhattan visitor that dogs are a very important part of our city life. And why shouldn't New Yorkers be able to treat their pets as well, if not better, than what they allow themselves. Those were the thoughts going through husband and wife team, Kathy and Paul, when they opened their doors in 2011. Wiggly Pups is a "boutique" doggy day care business (for dogs weighing under forty pounds) that is known to treat their furry clients like royalty. A playful and homey environment, with designer furniture and antiques to decorate the space, Wiggly Pups immediately developed a loyal customer base. People recognized their space as a fun, safe and clean place to leave their best friends for a few hours, the weekend, or a vacation. One is sure to receive text message photos, and updates daily from the staff. Dog owners can even go online and watch a live-streaming video of their pups at play.
New York Dog Spa and Hotel offers boarding, daycare, grooming and training services for dogs. While focused on pets, this business also offers the Red Carpet Party package - for $700, they will provide a two hour party for twenty people and their pets, champagne included. Welcome to New York!
Whiskers Holistic Petcare is far more than a pet supply store. That is because the proprietors, Randy and Phil Klein, are far more than business owners. Their mission is to help people save or enhance the lives of their pets. “We are an educational center that happens to sell product, ” Randy told us as we strolled through her shop. She wore a bluetooth earpiece, allowing her to be in constant communication with many of her employees. Given the different aspects of the business - from shipping and delivery to consulting, sales, and even care for homeless cats - it makes sense that Randy runs a tight ship. “I’m a clean store fanatic, ” she stated. Sure enough, as we traveled down the narrow aisles of pet food, vitamin supplements, and grooming and hygiene supplies, not a single item was out of place. She admitted that she has had to be organized to run a business for over thirty-five years. “The initial passion grew from our own experience, ” Randy explained. It all began when Tiffany-Anne, Randy’s collie-mix rescue dog, became ill, and the couple began to learn about the pitfalls of traditional pet medicine and the benefits of holistic care. When they started out in 1988, “holistic” medicine was a foreign word to most consumers. Today, Whiskers is known nationwide as a pioneer in an area that is now much more mainstream. “That doesn’t mean that there is not still work to be done, ” Randy admitted. “What we often see and hear from our customers about their experience at the vet is money-based. Doctors will recommend certain treatments because it means someone will get paid. The saddest part is that even when a vet refers a patient to us and our methods work, they show zero interest in what we are doing. ”At Whiskers, there is no “cookie cutter” approach. When someone comes in for a consultation, members of the trained staff will ask question after question so that they can determine an individualized course of care, one that centers around promoting natural animal behaviors. In reality, this means treating your animal like you would a human: Humanely. For Randy and Phil, running Whiskers, with locations in the East Village as well as Astoria, is “not without stress. ” Randy expressed to us that “What sometimes gets lost is how conscious we are of our customer experience. We care for them as people and we care about their animals. Our interest is in their stories. ”
Meet Amanda Gagnon. Actress turned Anthrozoologist turned dog (and people) trainer. Towards the end of 2018, we had the pleasure of spending time with her at the newly renovated doggy digs on West 85th Street where green stable-style doors open into a wide open puppy playing space. About a decade prior to our meeting, Amanda was side-gigging her actress career and took a day job at a doggy daycare center where, she stated passionately: “I loved working with the dogs SOOO much that I never went on another audition. ” At that daycare, she found that many of the dogs had behavioral problems, which is where Amanda’s curiosity in dog training began. After diving in extensively, and unfortunately learning the reality of all the bad care and training out there, Amanda decided to take it on herself. She became an expert trainer and Masters student of Anthrozoology, studying the relationship between dogs and humans across different cultures. Through sharing her unique expertise with fellow dog owners in local parks, buzz spread and eventually led to a large clientele – including many well-known celebrities. As a dog trainer, one of Amanda’s dirtiest secrets is that she spends far less time training dogs than she does training people. When it comes to learning, it turns out humans and dogs are not so different after all. “When you get down to the nitty gritty, we learn in much the same way, it’s just that the rewards are different. For a dog, the reward is a treat, a ball, something tangible. For a person it’s feeling fulfilled, successful, happy. "Yes, Amanda trains dogs to become “good dogs, ” but she is primarily training PEOPLE on how better to fix problematic doggy behaviors, how to communicate better, how to accept the behaviors they cannot fix, and, ultimately, how to have better relationships with their dogs. Amanda expanded on her philosophy: “Typical dog training tends to be so focused on stopping problem behaviors and making your dog perfect, but it doesn’t have to be entirely about that. You should have a good relationship with your dog! You didn’t get your dog so he could sit in a corner and behave all day. You got your dog to go out and meet people and do things and have fun! …The main goal is to help improve your life with your dog. ” From Puppy Socials to Paint-Your-Pet night at her training center, Amanda is as serious about fun as she is behavior training, offering pups and their parents more than just a place to learn new techniques, but also to play and socialize with other like-minded creatures. While puppies are her specialty, Amanda trains dogs of all ages and carries, in store, the best products for the job. One of which are “the perfect dog treat. ” Amanda partnered with Sherri Davis - who came from a successful corporate career managing events for almost twenty years - but found that her traveling precluded her from having her own dog. That all changed in 2016, when Sherri gave her notice and rescued a puppy on February 29. She named her Leap - as in the leap year. Sherri told us that she became a happier person. "Everyone around me was happier, strangers on the street became my neighbors and all because of this little ball of fluff. " She went on to say, "I quickly became a helicopter dog mom and realized the treats on the market were filled with crazy ingredients. After almost a year of testing, focus groups, interviews with nutritionists and vets, I believe we developed the perfect dog treat. " Amuse Pooch launched in 2017, selling their single ingredient, human grade all chicken breast Chicken Chips or 100% USDA Beef Chips, which Amanda keeps stocked in her storefront. According to Amanda, “The idea behind the store is to carry the products that I love and have been recommending to people for years which are usually hard to find, and to keep them at a price point where people can actually afford to train their dogs. ”A true expert in her field, Amanda is welcoming, full of patience, and always able to draw on her vast experience and continuing study of the relationships between dogs and humans, in order to meet the needs of her clients.