Holidays travel plans? What do you do with your pet?

I just got back from a trip to California to see my sister over Thanksgiving. Although I love to travel, it’s always a little stressful figuring out what to do with Hunter. I never like the idea of leaving him at a kennel where he will sit in a cage all day, so I always turn to friends and family to watch Hunter when I’m out of town.

Apparently, I am not alone., a site where you can search for pet sitters and dog walkers in your area, recently surveyed pet owners to get their thoughts on this very subject and find out what they do around the holidays with their pets. The survey found that 43% of dog owners do not like to take their pet to a caged kennel and 35% opt to host holidays at their own home so that they don’t have to find someone to watch their pet. Here are some other interesting findings:

Do you travel for the holidays? If so, what do you do with your pet?

Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by, but the content and opinions are my own. I only share information that will be useful or interesting to my readers.

Pet Photography Q&A: Brittany Graham

I love photography and I love dogs, so dog photography has always sounded like a dream job to me. Knowing how hard it can be to get a good photo of my dog though, I admire people who can really do it well. I recently came across local photographer Brittany Graham of Brittany Graham Photography and fell in love with her photos. Brittany has a great eye for capturing the bond between humans and their dogs.

I reached out to Brittany to find out what it’s like to be a dog photographer. Check out my Q&A below for some dog photography tips and the answer to the age old question: who’s easier to photograph – dogs or cats? (and a special offer!).

What got you interested in photography?
When I was 12, my uncle gave me my grandfathers’ Canon AE-1. I quickly became obsessed with photographing the everyday moments, everyone and anything around me. As for how it came to be that my main focus is Pet Photography, it was more of an obvious transition than a decision. I have three of my own pets and my everyday life seems to revolve around them – their quirks, their routine, the unconditional love that fills our home. It came so naturally to capture and document all of that, and I realized how many people miss or overlook such an opportunity.

Brittany Graham Photography


Do you have a favorite breed of dog to photograph?
Yes and no. Mutts are my favorites. I love photographing dogs who remind me of cartoon characters – Boston Terriers, Pugs, Italian Greyhounds, Great Danes, etc. Dogs with strong features. Then there are the breeds that always look regal – Golden Retrievers, Labs, Border Collies, Boxers. However, what I love most is photographing a really great bond. I always encourage owners to participate in the shoot as well. There is nothing like capturing the love between human and dog. The cliché of unconditional love never fails, so in the end, I don’t care what the breed is, I just want it to be a family affair.

What are some of your favorite locations in Cleveland to take dog photos?
This is a tough question. I LOVE a great urban landscape with a lot of texture such as the flats or Little Italy. With that said, dogs can be tricky and what I envision as a great location may end up being a nightmare if the dog is uncomfortable. I try to pick locations where the dog will comfortable and happy, so my favorite locations are those in which I can capture a pet as the owner sees them, such as their own environment or a familiar park.

Brittany Graham Photography


Which are easier to photograph – kids or dogs? Dogs or cats?
Kids or Dogs? It depends on the parents (this goes for parents of kids AND dogs) 😉 I can never stress enough, either way, to allow the main stars to be themselves. Dogs or Cats? Hmmmmm…. It depends on the specific cats and specific dogs. Spastic dogs are tricky as they require a lot of patience. Cats, well, cats do their own thing. Some cats couldn’t care less that I’m there. Some won’t come out of the closet. In general, I do think cats are more photogenic.

What are your tips for getting a great photo of your dog?
Get to their level. Don’t “bark” commands at them. Have fun, get dirty, and bring a lot of treats.

Brittany Graham Photography


Tell us about your pet(s). Do they like to have their photo taken?
Petey is a 6 year old boxer. He is the alpha in the house and is far too busy to bother himself with posing for the camera. Either he is incredibly bored by me and the camera by now or he thinks the camera lens is a pointer – if I point it at him, he turns to see what is behind him.

Tank is a 3 year old boxer (maybe boxer mix – we aren’t sure). He is a ham. He is by far the quirkiest dog I have ever met in my life and for that, I love photographing him. But, he takes the same role as his alpha leader and walks away from the camera.

Seamus (Shay-mus) is a 7 month old ginger tabby. He loves the camera – or at least he doesn’t turn away. He is very intrigued when I pull the camera out, though I’m sure in due time, he too will become bored with it.

Brittany Graham Photography


Do you have any funny pet stories from photo shoots?
Every shoot leads to funny stories, that is the beauty of being a pet photographer. More specifically, probably my favorite story was the time I was photographing a chocolate lab who got out of the car, saw a mud puddle, casually walked over to it, laid down, rolled around a few times and decided it was nap time. That was it. He wouldn’t move from that puddle. It was a short session.

 Brittany Graham Photography
Brittany Graham Photography


Do you have a favorite pet photo shoot you’ve done?
Each shoot I do becomes my new favorite! I feel like I learn something new from each session, almost like an “A HA” moment, which makes me want to run back to the studio and immediately start going through the images.

Brittany is offering a special for readers: Mention this blog and get a $200 gift certificate for $100 (one per reader/family/session). Offer good through December 15th.

Brittany is also the official photographer of the Lakewood Animal Shelter and for Darwin Dogs, a dog trainer in the Cleveland area. In addition to pet photography, Brittany also does weddings and family photo shoots. Visit her website at

Inside The Barkley Pet Hotel

Planning a fabulous vacation for yourself but can’t bring your dog along? You may want to send him off to The Barkley Pet Hotel & Day Spa for a vacation of his own. This “pet hotel” located in Orange markets itself as a luxury hotel for dogs and offers upscale accommodations plus many unique activities designed to keep your dog entertained and distracted from missing you while you’re away.

I recently took a tour of the 15,000 square foot facility led by Jessi Buehman, Customer Service Manager at The Barkley. Although I was impressed with their accomodations, what mostly set it apart from other boarding facilities for me is their level of customization and the unique activities they can offer dogs staying there. Depending on your dog’s personality and your budget, you can give him a fairly typical boarding experience with just a few exercise breaks or you can add on any number of activities to enhance your dog’s time away from home.

The hotel offers four different boarding options for pets – leisure suites, serenity suites, executive poolside suites and parkside suites. In addition to dog boarding, cats can stay at the Barkley in their “Kittie City” accommodations.

The leisure and serenity suites are comparable to what most other boarding places offer, although a little fancier and the serenity suites cater specifically to smaller dogs. The poolside suites offer exactly what you’d think – rooms facing a small pool, but they also offer window views for most of the rooms and larger accommodations so it’s a good option if you have multiple dogs to board or your dog would enjoy a window view. They also have a room known as the “Director’s Suite” a large room near the poolside suites, which has leather furniture, a TV and a prime window view of the lobby.

The Director's Suite
The Director’s Suite

The Parkside suites offer rooms in a park-like setting, with a trickling water fountain in the middle for the soothing sounds of water. Rooms in the poolside and parkside area also have TVs (you don’t want your dog to miss out on his favorite show!) and webcams so that you can keep an eye on your dog.

You can also purchase “add ons” to make your dog’s experience more exciting. One nice add on – since The Barkley is also a doggie day camp – is that boarders can take advantage of the day camp to get extra outside playtime. Possible other add ons include: personal play/cuddle time, bedtime biscuits, room service for a “Barkley steak,” ice cream socials, swimming, bedtime stories/tummy rubs, among others. You can even can purchase an add on for a trip to McDonald’s for your dog and select what item off the menu can be ordered for him. Buehman said they are also looking to add on some new activities, considering arts and crafts and sno-cones for the dogs.

All dogs get three exercise breaks and continuous water, as well as comfy bedding. When you drop your dog off you fill out a detailed profile of his or her personality, including likes/dislikes, behaviors, medical history and special needs. If there are special details for the staff to know about your dog, they make a note of it on a board outside of his room. So if your dog is food aggressive, doesn’t get along with other dogs or has allergies or other issues, they will be careful to accommodate his or her needs.

In addition to being a boarding facility, the Barkley has a grooming salon for dogs. The full service grooming salon offers many unique services such as hair coloring and nail painting, otherwise known as “pawdicures.”  They also offer other luxury spa services such as “mud masks” and their “Celebrity Package” which includes teeth brushing, a pawdicure, mud mask, facial and head massage. What dog wouldn’t love a mud mask followed by a head massage?

The dog in the middle looks pretty excited about getting her nails done, doesn’t she?

One other cool feature they offer is photographs of your dog on their red carpet, because who doesn’t think their dog deserves celebrity treatment?


Each day the front desk is responsible for taking three pictures of each boarding dog to send to the owners. Pretty cool feature for owners missing their furry friends!

What do you think? Would your dog enjoy the VIP treatment of a place like this?

* All photos copyright 2014 The Barkley

For more info, visit:

Squad Fifty One Q&A and Woof in the City sneak peek!

If you’ve ever experienced a pet emergency you know how stressful and scary it can be when your pet is hurt or in pain. Yalanda Medina was so affected by her own pet emergency that she decided to start Squad Fifty One, a pet emergency response unit. Acting as “pet paramedics” Squad Fifty One provides pet transport to veterinary facilities, caring for and stabilizing pets to ensure the best possible outcome. The business is in the early stages of getting off the ground, having just completed an Indiegogo campaign to gather funds.

To find out more about what Squad Fifty One does, as well as their first annual event, Woof in the City, read on for my Q&A with Yalanda.

Tell us about Squad Fifty One.squad-fifty-one-logo-v2a-white-cropped

Approximately 3 years ago, my husband and I where driving home from Maryland when we got a call from our dog sitter who told us she thought something was wrong with my then 3 year old Yorkie, Bruiser. We were still 4 hours away and I was sick with worry. When we got home, the dog was clearly very ill, I jumped back in the car and raced, literally, doing 85mph to get him to the ER vet. While I was driving I remember thinking two things: 1. If the police give chase, I was not going to stop until I got to the vet, and 2. that there has to be a better way to deal with medical emergencies for animals than this. I risked both our lives and the lives of others racing through the streets. I couldn’t believe there was not a system set up to deal with these types of situations like there is for humans.

That experience stayed with me. Even though Bruiser made a full recovery, I was permanently traumatized. I was constantly concerned not only for my own pet, but for all other pets. So finally my husband suggested I stop just worrying about it and try to institute a solution.

What types of emergencies do you assist with?

We can assist with all sorts of emergency situations: trauma/injuries due to accidents, sudden onset illnesses such as seizures, allergic reactions, poisonings, burns, etc.

What services will you provide in the event of an emergency?

Our job is to assess, triage, stabilize, and transport patients as quickly and efficiently as possible to the nearest veterinary facility or pet ER hospital. We provide wound and injury care, CPR, oxygen therapy, fluid therapy, vital systems monitoring, and bracing or stabilization of broken.

Our goal is do everything possible to give the patient the greatest chance for the best possible outcome. Also, and of equal importance, we want to give peace of mind to panicked pet parents. Seeing your pet sick or injured is undoubtedly quite stressful so we also want to help pet parents get through this difficult experience as well. It’s comforting to know that there is someone you can call for help when you need it.

We also provide non-emergency related services as well: critical care transport, non-emergency (basic) transport, home follow up care, and deceased pet removal.

Are you still running your Indiegogo campaign to raise funds? How has that gone?

Our Indiegogo campaign has ended. It went well but we fell short of our fundraising goal. We are planning to rerun the campaign this February. But for anyone who is interested in investing in our vision can do so by visiting our website:

Give us some details on Woof in the City. woof

Woof in the City will be held  Sat., April 5th (not the previous date of Feb.15th) at the Shaker LaunchHouse in Shaker Hts., Ohio. It is a canine celebration! I love going with Bruiser to various dog events around the city and thought this was a great way to usher in Spring after having been cooped up during the winter months.

This event serves as both a fundraiser and a friend-raiser. Because we will be a brand new service in the area, we thought this was an excellent way for people to get to know us and to introduce our services to pet parents.

We will put on a Best in Show Mock Competition where parents can enter their pooches and compete for prizes in different categories. We are also considering a pet fashion show. We will also have a pet photographer on site for portraits.

Tickets are $12 per person and can be purchased by visiting

To find out more about Squad Fifty One, visit

My Best Friend’s Bowl

One of the things that makes Cleveland such a dog friendly city is how well the community comes together to support pets in need. There are so many great organizations focused on caring for forgotten and struggling animals. One such group you may not know about is My Best Friend’s Bowl, a nonprofit pet food bank based out of Lakewood. The all-volunteer organization, which is part of the Lakewood Foundation, helps pet owners that are struggling financially keep their pets by providing them with pet food.

To learn more about this organization and how they work in our community, read on for my Q&A with Judy Towner, Director of My Best Friend’s Bowl.

Tell us about how My Best Friend’s Bowl started. How long have you been around?

I began working as a volunteer at the Lakewood Community Services Center (LCSC), a food bank, in October 2010. In January 2011, a client asked me if we had any dog food. That was not a typical request but I remembered seeing a lone bag way back in the warehouse. I brought it to her and she almost cried. She told me she had been feeding her dog rice. The light bulb went off in my head. I started by shopping for sales, using coupons etc.  I began to put out feelers in the community and was excited to find that people wanted to help. Bags of food began showing up at the center, animal related groups began inviting me to their events and meetings to spread the word.

How do you find the families that need your services?

We will get food to anyone in need. We have a Facebook page and a website so when people Google pet food bank, we show up and I get calls from them. I also have referrals from other pet-related organizations like PAWS. If the clients can’t get to Lakewood at the center to pick up (I have to leave food marked for them at the center, they can’t just come in and ask for pet food) and if they are close to Lakewood and can’t get here I usually drop off. If they are farther away, I have Pet Supplies Plus gift cards that I can mail to them.


How has the need for your services been this year?

Since food stamps have been cut back recently, I’ve seen more people coming into LCSC that have not been there in a few months or more. They had been doing alright with the food stamps they were receiving but with the cuts, find the need for additional help. This of course adds to the number of people that need pet food so our usage has grown.

What can people do if they want to donate or help out MBFB?

We will be having our 3rd Annual Super Bowl Sunday Pet Food Drive in 2014 with the help of Ganley Subaru in North Olmsted with Laurie Sekeres. We have our dog and cat key chains with tiny dog and cat related charms (I made over 100 of them) for sale $6 each at Style Mutt, 3525 Warren Rd,. Cleveland. There are photos on our Facebook page:!/mybestfriendsbowl

To find out more ways you can help, visit:

Want to donate food? Check out the web site for drop off locations.





FlipFlop Dogs

Whether it’s for a couple hours, or a weekend, leaving your dog is one of the most stressful things you have to deal with as a dog owner. I recently came across an interesting service being offered in the Cleveland area, FlipFlop Dogs. FlipFlop provides an alternative to kenneling, placing dogs in homes for full-time pet sitting.

FlipFlop Dogs’ service, which started in 2011, places dogs in homes with “Companion Families.” The service carefully selects their families, doing background checks and interviews, to find the best homes for dogs. FlipFlop says that the families don’t watch the dogs to make money, but rather most are families or retirees who just love dogs. FlipFlop service also includes door-to-door, chauffeur driven transport for your dog to alleviate the stress and anxiety of being left behind.

For more details on this service and the companion families, read on for my Q&A with Lindsay Arko, Director of Franchise Support at FlipFlop Dogs.

How did the idea for FlipFlop Dogs come about?
We have spent our careers in the pet industry, so when it was time to look for another opportunity, our love of dogs prompted us to look for an alternative to kenneling. Fortunately our friends living in England mentioned an alternative to kenneling they discovered in England. We began researching this innovative idea and found Barking Mad, Home from Home Pet Care to offer the most professional services, having been in business for 10 years. Using Barking Mad as our model, FlipFlop® now provides safe, loving home-environment vacations for dogs in the U.S.

Tell us about some of the companion families in Cleveland.

Our Companions are amazing people! All of our Companion Families love dogs.  Some are actively retired who have had dogs all their lives, but now enjoy the freedom and flexibility of caring for dogs on vacation.  Others are younger, often in graduate school, teachers, or young families who can’t have the full time responsibility of a dog….and then there are the families that just really want to have an occasional playmate for their own dog.

How do you choose the families? Do most have other dogs?

We make it our first priority to provide carefully selected, personally inspected (homes) and even background-screened Companions for our customers and their dogs. Our Companion Families are often active retired, widowed, and retired military veterans who would prefer the privacy, safety and support FlipFlop Dogs offers so that they can focus on what they like to do best – care for dogs! Although, customers don’t visit Companion Families homes, our Companion profiles give exact details as to where their dog will be staying and we provide communication by phone, video, pictures and text to our customers (as little or as much as requested).

If you like a family can you use them again?

Absolutely, our goal is to match your dog up with a Companion your dog will enjoy spending time with every time you go on vacation!

What requirements do you have for the families as far as the amount of time they need to be home with the dog they are watching?
We require that our Companions are not working outside of the home when watching dogs for FlipFlop.  The dogs are not left unattended for more than 2-4 hours per day although other than going to dinner, the grocery or an occasional errand – Companions really enjoy spending time at home with their guest!

Looking to start your own pet business? FlipFlop is looking to grow, adding 2 to 3 more franchises in the Cleveland area and needs franchise owners. Interested parties can find out more here or contact Lindsay Arko at 440-387-4584.