Monday, October 15, 2018     Volume: 19, Issue: 32

Santa Maria Sun / Cover Story

The following article was posted on December 6th, 2017, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 18, Issue 40 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 18, Issue 40

Deck the paws: This year's Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide is for the pets and animal lovers on your list


Local pet shops like That’s Fetch, offer clothing for pets, including holiday themed garb great for the pups on your shopping list.

You might have everyone crossed off your holiday shopping list, but what about the four-legged friends and family in your life? For this year’s Last-Minute Gift Guide, the Sun focused on gifts for pets and pet owners, like holiday-themed dog clothes, adoption deals at the Santa Maria Animal Shelter, training for dogs who always tip the Christmas tree over, and local trail riding for the equestrian on your list.

Joe Payne,
Managing Editor

Read the entire Last-Minute Gift Guide in PDF form.

Bundle up someone's precious little pets with festive clothes


It's less than a month away from Christmas and inside That's Fetch pet boutique, shopper Miche Norton is busy fussing over what to get her dog.

For dogs like BB, a professional dog model, sweaters and dresses can make for excellent last-minute gift ideas that are affordable and fun.

Norton is trying a festive holiday necklace on her beloved Maltese, the aptly named Ms. Phyllis Diller. The dog is also decked out in a newly purchased set of pajamas, which store owner Linda Greco has been carefully fitting on the pampered pooch.

"She likes to wear dresses and these kinds of pajamas," said Norton, who has several other dogs as well. "She has a Christmas dress. I like things that are cute."

For holiday shoppers looking for last-minute ideas, dog clothing like shirts, sweaters, dresses, or even accessories like special collars or neck attire, can be an excellent way to stuff stockings or surprise enthusiastic pet owners who see their furry companions as true members of their own family.

Greco said people are spending more and more downtime with their pets over the holidays, so they ramp up efforts to pamper or outright spoil them as a way to savor the time together.

Cute outfits or accessories for pets of family members and friends can make for a successful last-minute gift giving idea. Local shops such as That’s Fetch feature a variety of gifts for the fur baby moms and dads in anyone’s life.

"They want clothing pieces or toys they can have fun with," Greco said. "In general things that make the bonding time between the owner and the pet more special and more magical."

As the holidays approach, what pet owners want can vary from seasonal necessities like warm clothing to wildly decorative ornamental items, like bedazzled collars and leashes.

"The things that seem to be the most popular right now are things like sweaters, because of the cold weather," Greco said. "We're blending fashion with function, in the sense that the sweaters are cute as well as being able to keep them warm. Pajamas are something we're finding are really popular for pet owners right now, too."

Greco points out that in order to fit something like pajamas correctly on a canine, you have to watch how and where the garment fits on the dog. Get something too loose and a dog can trip or immediately step out of an outfit. She said dogs will let their owners know right away if wearing things like clothes are for them or not.

Clothes for dogs can be fun or functional, like the pajamas that keep Phyllis Diller, a Maltese, warm in the winter. Boutique pet retailers like That’s Fetch in Santa Maria have cropped up on the Central Coast recently to cater to pet parents.

"If you're not bringing a dog in [to the shop] to try something on, you want to get about a size bigger than what you think the dog needs," Greco. "Usually we find the clothes end up being a size or two bigger than what we think our dogs need."

Additionally, Greco said high quality items pets can wear beyond the holidays and things that are festive and fun are popular among shoppers as the holiday season approaches. Throughout the store, Greco offers items that are priced at different levels, with some, like durable and eye-catching leather collars meant to last throughout the entire life of a pet.

"One thing we're finding is that people are wanting things that will last a while," Greco said. "We don't want to sell something cheap that is going to make them have to come back two weeks later. We want quality items that pet owners are going to have for awhile."

It’s not ruff
• That’s Fetch is located at 3564 Skyway Drive, Suite B, Santa Maria. More info: (805) 361-0802.
• Unique Bowtique and Barkery is located at 1603 Copenhagen Drive, No. 2, Solvang. More info: (805) 686-0724.

In January, Greco said she plans to have a pajama parade for pet owners to show off their dogs' new duds.

Events designed to display costumes or clothes for pets appeal to pet parents like Norton, who is ready to plunk down more for her four-legged friends.

"I don't have kids, so guess who gets spoiled," she said.

Arts and Lifestyle Writer Rebecca Rose can be reached at


The Santa Maria Animal Shelter has dogs, cats, and bunnies who need a home for the holidays


Blanca (pictured) is a 4-year-old pit bull mix currently available for adoption at the Santa Maria Animal Shelter. Blanca has been at the shelter since September. While Blanca gets anxious in her kennel, she loves to play outside with shelter staffers and volunteers.

The holiday season has snuck up on us all once again, and if you're the giving type, panic is setting in. Your difficult-to-shop-for relatives and friends are probably sick of unwrapping fuzzy socks and soap baskets, and after the visible looks of disappointment displayed during gift exchanges last season, you vowed this year would be different.

So be the star of your family's Secret Santa party this time, and trade the fuzzy socks for a fuzzy (or feathered or scaled) pet. The Santa Maria Animal Shelter is currently housing dozens of healthy dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, guinea pigs, and, sometimes, reptiles that are available for adoption. One could be your next unbeatable gift.

"We feel like the holidays are a really good time for people to adopt animals," said Stacy Silva, community outreach coordinator for Santa Barbara County Animal Services. "A lot of times there are more family activities happening, more time to spend getting an animal acclimated, and of course, we want to see our shelter animals home for the holidays."

Dogs, cats, and rabbits are the most commonly adopted animals, Silva said, for which the shelter charges adoption fees of $110, $75, and $30, respectively. Dog owners in Santa Barbara County also need licenses, which cost $13. With the adoption of a shelter animal, which Silva said are all neutered and spayed, the shelter provides a free bag of food and one coupon for a free veterinary visit.

But if you're really shopping on a budget and found this year's Black Friday sale to be a bust, the shelter is hosting a "Dear Santa" campaign from Dec. 11 to 23, the last day the shelter will be open before Christmas, where adoption fees will be discounted. During the first week of the campaign, from Dec. 11 to 16, all adoptions for animals more than five months old will be free. From Dec. 18 to 23, adoptions will be 50 percent off.

"We're encouraging people to adopt a little bit earlier than Christmas itself so that the animals can adjust and the family can get well adjusted prior to all of the chaos that can ensue during Christmas," Silva said.

And if you're hoping for that Hallmark puppy-coming-out-of-a-box surprise moment, forget it. Silva also suggested that gift givers not pick a pet for another person. Instead, Silva said, gift givers should bring the recipient in to pick their own pet. It's important that the potential owner gains a connection with any animal before adopting it, she said.

Several rabbits are available for adoption at the Santa Maria Animal Shelter. Stacy Silva, community outreach coordinator for Santa Barbara County Animal Services, said a lot of rabbits end up at the shelter after owners realize they can be demanding pets to care for.

"It allows them to find an animal that really fits with their needs and their environment and what they're looking for," Silva said.

The adoption process is somewhat lengthy, and includes an adoption survey and an interview with an adoption counselor to ensure the right fit. It takes more than an hour but can be done in one visit.

Individuals who aren't ready to adopt but do want an animal around during Christmas can also participate in this year's Santa Slumber Party, during which families can take home a shelter dog from Dec. 23 to 26 so that the animals have temporary home for the holidays.

Silva also urges pet owners to ensure their animals have tags and proper identification before the holiday season, during which animals tend to get lost in the chaos and squeeze out of doors left open by visitors.

For more information on pet adoption, call (805) 934-6119, visit the Santa Maria Animal Shelter at 548 West Foster Road, or visit

Staff Writer Kasey Bubnash can be reached at


Local dog trainers can help someone with a rambunctious rover


Sometimes training a dog can be rough, but Central Coast pet owners are not without options when it comes to stubborn or misbehaving pooches.

Doggie Do Good in Arroyo Grande specializes in training dogs for owners who are at the end of their leash.

"Our most popular program is our camp program—that's where dogs stay with us for 21 days," administrator Destiny Aragon told the Sun.

Doggie Do Good in Arroyo Grande offers a three week training camp that focuses on building good habits for obedient dogs.

The camps involve basic obedience commands like sit, stay, come, etc. Trainers ask owners to fill out a wish list of areas they'd like to see their dog improve in, such as excessive barking or chewing.

The three week camp costs $2,100—$100 a day—but includes lifetime training for former customers in some cases. It's a perfect gift for the person in your life whose dog needs help behaving, especially if multiple friends and family members want to pitch in on training as a last-minute gift.

"If they filled out a wish list and one of the three things on their list was something they were still having trouble with after the camp, they can come back and we will work on that for free," Aragon added.

The staff of around 25 people usually have their hands full, as training sessions per day last around six to eight hours and involve shock collars.

"We have had a lot of success with those, much more than treat training, because sometimes dogs just want to work off of treats and we want to break that," Aragon said. "Collars get criticized, but they are very effective."

Don't worry though, Doggie Do Good uses the lowest voltage on the devices, which is the equivalent of a basic static electric shock.

"By no means is it actually hurting the dog," Aragon emphasized.

And while the three-week class may be a little pricey, the Arroyo Grande company is offering a 30 percent holiday discount through the entire month of December.

Aragon said that the training camp offered transportation to and from their location at a ranch in Arroyo Grande on Summit Station Road.

Doggie Do Good also offers basic obedience classes that run every three months (the next one is set for January). The price for those is $295. Private lessons are also available and priced on a case-by-case basis.

Hours of operation run from 7 a.m to 7 p.m but trainers are on site from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Additionally, the company's owners live on the ranch.

"The dogs are never alone," Aragon said.

To set up an appointment or camp, call (805) 473-1701 or email You can also visit their website at

In Santa Maria, Mark Lipes began training dogs about a year ago at his house. His company, DognPooch, offers week long training courses starting at $600.

"I get a lot of puppies that people don't have time to train, and I get a lot of dogs that are becoming aggressive: growling at people and also dogs with hyperactivity," he said.

Lipes also uses shock collar training, which he says helps keep the dog focussed on the owner.

"[The collars] get the dogs thinking about you and the area you are in instead of what's down the road, and it gets the dog to the point where the owner is in charge of what's going to happen instead of the dog leading the owner to whatever it wants," he said. "A lot of dogs are looking way down the street for other dogs and things like that, when I get through with them, dogs are looking at the owner for what to do next."

Visit or call (805) 538-0233 for more info.

Staff Writer Spencer Cole can be reached at


Local trailriding businesses have gift certificates for getting on horseback


A gift certificate is most people's go-to for a last-minute holiday gift, the obvious and uncreative choice. But there's always the chance to gift somebody with a certificate for something unique, surprising, or new.

For Jaye Ganibi, coowner of Vino Vaqueros, a local trail riding business in Santa Ynez, most of the people she takes out for rides among the valley's rolling foothills have never even ridden a horse.

Vino Vaqueros leads riders of all experience levels through a vineyard and cattle ranch property in the picturesque Santa Ynez Valley.

"I would say that 95 percent of our guests have never rode a horse before or have ridden under 20 times in their life," she said. "So we always try to delegate horses accordingly. We do a horseback riding 101 speech for guests regardless of their experience level; that's very important."

Rides are always exclusive, Ganibi said, so you don't have to ride with anybody you don't know. Parties can be anywhere from two to 12 people, she said, with one or two guides depending on the size of the party, and they do offer gift certificates.

Ganibi and/or her husband lead the rides on the property of Estelle Vineyards in Santa Ynez, she said. They lease the 1,000-plus acre property for the rides along the vineyard and cattle ranch, she said, and they have two different path options depending on the experience of the riders.

"I feel like, especially in this side of the Santa Ynez Valley, the east side, you get the views of the Figueroa Mountain range, you get the views of the whole valley, and you get that whole rugged, equestrain Western feel," Ganibi said.

All of the horses that Vino Vaqueros riders are paired with are retired quarter horses, Ganibi explained, so they've got the "easy life" now. The rides are leasurely and relaxed, and horses like Dude, Yellow, Miss Belle, and Pancho enjoy the stroll as much as the guests, she said.

"A trail ride is really a break for the rider and the horse as well," she said. "When you're outside on the ride, it's like a cruise or a vacation."

Because the horses are in charge of the walking, the riders get to soak in the sights, Ganibini said. The valley and property is quite picturesque, which riders revel in as well.

"Oh yeah, as soon as we get out of the barn, we endorse selfie snapping all the way," she said.

Vino Vaqueros leads riders of all experience levels through a vineyard and cattle ranch property in the picturesque Santa Ynez Valley.

The rides last around 70 to 90 minutes, and there's the option to end the experience with a wine tasting, hence the "vino" in Vino Vaqueros.

In true equestrian fashion, the wine tasting happens in the barn where the rides set out from, Ganibini said, and there's ample seating inside and out. They also supply wines that source from the Estelle Vineyards property, she explained.

"You actually ride right by the grenache; we point out where the white comes from," she said. "It's really intimate and very private, which we love."

They also offer a package that includes food, either a deli lunch or a catered farm-to-table meal, but riders can bring a picnic lunch to enjoy as well.

Vino Vaqueros isn't the only business in the valley that offers trail rides. Some resorts and other riding outfits do as well, with food and wine to boot. But Vino Vaqueros keeps it simple, relaxed, and rustic for anyone who wants to enjoy an afternoon on horseback.

"It's an experience I hope that people will never forget," she said. "I've actually got a gift certificate right in front of me that I need to pop in the mail because the gal that is buying this for her daughter and her boyfriend said they've never done anything like this before.

"It's just something totally memorable, different, and unique, and you know, if we can give that to people, it's pretty cool," she added.

More information about Vino Vaqueros is available by calling (805) 944-0493, online at, or via email at

Managing Editor Joe Payne can be reached at

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