From donating blood to going to the spa, dogs are taking over the world

Published July 13 2013


Every two months, Julia Shakeri takes her dogs to the veterinarian. • They are not sick. In fact, it's the opposite. They are saving lives. • Moose Tracks and Capone are canine blood donors. • And Shakeri, an avian medicine and surgery resident at BluePearl Veterinary Partners in Tampa, where the blood bank is based, is not the only one volunteering her pooches for the procedure. • BluePearl has about 85 regular donor dogs on file. • To some, this may seem unusual. But for many pet parents, this is just another example of how practices once reserved for humans are increasingly going to the dogs.

"More and more we are treating our pets like humans," said Kristen Levine, president of Fetching Communications, a marketing company in Tarpon Springs that focuses solely on the pet industry.

"It just makes us feel good to treat our pets, even if they don't necessarily know the difference."

Often, that means dogs go where we go and do what we do, she said.

"A lot of pet trends mirror human trends," Levine said.

At the Poodle Penthouse on Gunn Highway in Tampa, dogs can get blueberry facials. The scent is soothing and the berries help brighten white fur, owner Suzanne Grande said.

"Just like aromatherapy or a bubble bath relaxes us, it makes dogs feel good, too," Grande said.

Love designer clothes? Only eat organic? Use an orthopedic pillow to rest your weary head?

No longer are those luxuries limited to the two-legged.

Local pet boutiques are filled with $200 orthopedic dog beds, trendy clothes, organic food and treats. Big-box retailers have it all, too.

Dionne Gage's Brussels griffon, Duchess, is familiar with the finer things in life, thanks to a doting family.

"My sister treats her like she's her niece," Gage said recently as she left a Tampa PetSmart carrying dog food. "She buys her cute bows and cute clothes. . . . She even bought her a little car seat."

And once they are dressed up, whether it's a new outfit or a snazzy bandanna, dogs can head out on the town, with owner in tow, of course.

Pets are welcome every day at Gaspar's Grotto, but the Ybor City pub has a designated yappy hour, too. Dubbed Pets on the Patio, the event is held on the first Saturday of each month from 4 to 7 p.m. On the dog menu: choice of beef or chicken with vegetables and rice.

Dogs are also welcome at Jackson's Bistro in South Tampa and invited to shop at several stores in Hyde Park Village.

And if Fido needs a break from the stresses of life, bringing a dog along for the family vacation is easier than ever.

Many stores have entire sections of products devoted to traveling with canine companions. A Martha Stewart brand dog backpack even allows dogs to carry their own treats while hiking the trails. They may need a human to work the zipper, though.

More luxurious vacations are not out of the question, either. In AAA's annual PetBook, you can find pet-friendly accommodations across the country, including top-rated hotels.

If the pups do have to stay behind, they can still have fun. Places such as Fuzzie Buddies, a recreational pet resort at 1212 N 34th St. in Tampa, offer playtime with other boarders and "beach front pools," providing a stay-cation paradise.

"It is very spacious. Our playtime yard is larger than a South Tampa small back yard," said Edie Wilhoit, the company's president. "We have two pools that are the largest in the area, and the field turf is the same type of grass that the New York Giants play on."

Once vacation is done and everyone's exhausted, why not give back?

The blood collected at BluePearl is used to treat animals in emergency situations. Many of the animals are sedated when donating, and owners can often be heard whispering to them, "You're saving lives," said blood bank coordinator Brenda Fulcher.

And, of course, dogs can help their owners, too.

Paw Fit Tampa combines Fido's workout with his owner's.

A boot camp for people and their dogs, classes are off for the summer. But come fall, both master and dog can fit in a lunch power circuit in the park.

Plus, dogs can boost moods. Many studies show that dogs decrease anxiety and lower blood pressure, Levine said.

"Pets are part of the family," Levine said. "They bring us love and joy in difficult times."

That may be one of the reasons dogs seem to be infiltrating the human world, Levine said, but there's no definitive answer, just theories.

"We live in such a digital age, we are bombarded with texts and emails, are on our computers all time," she said. "But we can't text our pets, we can't email our pets, we have to deal with them face to face. It gives us that tangible personal touch we really crave."

As dogs continue to take over, their names are getting a revamp, too. According to Hillsborough County Animal Services records, cutesy pet names are out in favor of more sophisticated names often found on parents' baby name lists.

Apparently, it's more popular to stitch "Bella" onto that Pottery Barn embroidered dog bed than "Fido." Even if Bella does snuggle in on the king-sized bed each night instead.

Shelley Rossetter can be reached at or (813) 226-3401.

Also In This Section