Let's be honest: For many people, their pets are the most important companions in their lives. If I had my choice, this entire Holiday Guide would be all about pets — what to give them, how to adopt them, how to love them. But the editor has a different vision. Oh, well.
So, here are just a handful of pet-gift ideas to get you started.Dexter's No. 1 Pick
Lulubelles Power Plush Grrritos and Woofles toys bring me so much joy. And that's just me. If your dog is like my Dexter, and enjoys a toy that both crunches and squeaks, then look no further than this bag of "chips" that "chirp." It's durable, comes in multiple sizes, and is made in the United States with non-toxic dyes. Woofles and Grrritos can be found at: George, 1824 Fourth St, Berkeley, GeorgeSF.com.The No-More-Excuses Stocking Stuffer
We all know that person who always runs out of bags — or just doesn't pick up the poo. Well, this is the perfect (passive-aggressive) gift for them. The Business Buddy is machine washable and available in a variety of stylish colors. Jax and Bones is a California company that makes incredible, eco-friendly pet products right here in the United States. The Business Buddy can be found at: Cole Valley Hardware, 5533 College Ave, Oakland, ColeHardware.com/Rockridge.Badass Collars Made by a Badass Woman
Chase Wilson is an S.F. firefighter who puts her heart and soul into making leather collars by hand in Oakland. She sources quality domestic leather and then she polishes, dyes, bevels, and burnishes — a process that can take her days. Chase Wilson Leather Collars can be found at: Grand Lake All About Pets, 3335 Grand Ave, Oakland, GrandLakeAllAboutPets.com.A Trippy Night's (And Day's) Sleep
Hula Hut Designs makes Catnip Kitty Quilts with a built-in catnip pouch fully loaded. It can be easily replenished over time. Keep in mind, catnip has essential oils that dissipate pretty quickly. So, if you buy catnip, it's best to store it in the freezer. These quilts come in a wide selection of playful designs, and they are lovingly made in Hawaii. Catnip Kitty Quilts can be found at: Grand Lake All About Pets.Fishing for a Gift
Adding plant life to your aquarium will improve the health of the water environment and add natural elements that will thrive. Finding the right plant and creating the perfect space for your finned friends can be a fun challenge for you, as well. The Pogostemon Stellata Narrow and Ludwigia Inclinata var. Verticillata 'Cuba' are lovely, colorful additions to the aquarium. Talk to the experts about your fish, lighting, aquarium size, and maintenance ability. For that, I recommend a visit to Albany Aquarium (818 San Pablo Ave, Albany, AlbanyAquarium.com).Forever Pet Portraits
For a truly lasting gift for the pet lover in your life, consider commissioning a portrait. Find an artist that has experience with animals. When viewing their portfolios, consider the aesthetic preferences of the recipient. There are plenty of artists and photographers in the region to pick from, but here are two of my picks.
Nathan Fowle is an Oakland-based photographer that takes pictures of companion animals. His love of dog photography stems from his volunteer work at Oakland Animal Services, where he has photographed more than 500 adoptable animals to help them find forever homes. As a bonus, if you mention the Express when you purchase, Fowle will donate 10 percent to Friends of Oakland Animal Services (Oakocalyptic Designs, Oakocalyptic.com).
Judy North is a highly acclaimed artist with gallery shows in the Bay Area, and her dog portraits are prominently displayed at the Slanted Door. North not only brings your furry friend fully to life on canvas, but she also has a keen eye for color, texture, and background composition that makes her portraits striking as art pieces for the home or office. Judy North, Fine Artist; JudyNorth.com.A Play Time Gift Certificate
You don't have to spend money to give a valuable gift. Caring for a pet is such a blessing. But just like having human children, sometimes people need a little help. Consider making a play date coupon redeemable for a free dog walk, cat-sitting, or fish-feeding. Alternatively, many day cares offer gift certificates, as well. The peace of mind in knowing your most-loved critters are safe and happy is priceless.