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.