A carefully curated diet will go a long way toward keeping your fuzzy best friend with you for all the added romps and cuddles a few extra years together will allow. Besides managing your pet’s weight, a working understanding of healthy ingredients and your companion’s nutritional needs is an essential part of animal husbandry. Luckily, once the basics are taken care of pet and owner alike get to have a little fun with the formula.
Capitol Hill’s kibble emporium Howl to The Chief carries a selection that makes Whole Foods look like Skip Church’s Bistro. Howl’s selection is staggering. Baskin Robbins pales in comparison.
Popular upscale brands such as Wellness and Halo sit aside Dr. Bronner-esque niche labels like Earthborn Holistics. Howl also boasts an extensive collection of fresh and dehydrated raw food.
Anyone who has watched their own weight, however, knows that half the fun of a disciplined diet is the occasional safe splurge. Your beloved howling Hodor is no different.
The Dupont Circle neighborhood’s 12-year institution Doggy Style Bakery, Boutique & Pet Spa, a Washingtonian Magazine best pet shop, is locally unparalleled in canine haute cuisine. Their selection of homemade, healthy dog cakes and ice creams, made respectively with peanut butter and frozen yogurt, will have your dog hauling you up their front stairs every time you’re in the neighborhood.
“The treats we make are more like bakery items,” says owner Krista Heinz. “[We sell] stuff you couldn’t mass produce and package. They have frosting on them, they’re hand-decorated. The idea is that it’s fresh, it’s unique and cute.”
Heinz and her team are perhaps best known for their custom cake decoration. Heinz’s creations have, for the last two years, been featured on Animal Planet’s mega-popular Puppy Bowl. One cake is created for each competing Super Bowl team and the puppies collectively predict the winner through their eating preference. They have chosen incorrectly so far, but Heinz attributes that more to communication errors – the dogs are picking the losing team, not winning – than any oracular deficits in the participants.
Doggy Style doesn’t offer its own homemade cat treats, but does sell feline-favorites like catnip and Bonita’s Fish Flakes, which are made of exactly what they sound like. If you’d like to feed your own fish something special without forcing cannibalism, Silver Spring’s Tropical Lagoon aquarium store has plenty of options.
Steve Maletzky, who has owned the store since 1983, says that a few floated lettuce leaves or live plants like corkscrew vallisneria can add variety to a goldfish’s diet and serve as a time-release feeding mechanism while the human fish-friend is traveling. Oscars and other large-mouthed cichlids will gladly eat crickets, mealworms and live brine shrimp. The surprisingly affectionate black ghost knifefish can be trained to eat bloodworms from its owner’s hand. And Maletzky carries ‘em all.
Tropical lagoon also has a resident parrot named Suzy who enjoys grapes, apples and certain fish foods. Tank, a 25-year-old tortoise with the bulk and laid-back expressiveness of basset hound, prefers strawberries, mangoes and papaya, though he’s nuts tomatoes.
“Anything red he goes crazy for,” shares Maletzky. “He comes charging from the top of the yard to where you’re standing. He can move pretty quickly.”
Snake owners, forever under-represented, continue to get the skinny end of the python when it comes to special snacks. Live rats and mice can cause fatal injury to captive-bred snakes, and no amount of frosting in the world can make defrosting a dead one any easier.
For more information about various pet treats, visit Howl to The Chief, 733 8th St. SE, 202-544-8710, howltothechief.com; Doggy Style Bakery, Boutique & Pet Spa, 1825 18th St. NW, 202-667-0595, doggiestylebakery.com; and Tropical Lagoon, 9431 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, 301-585-6562, tropicallagoon.com.