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2018 Best of the East Bay: Pets

Offering everything from doggy day care to professional grooming, these animal services bring out the best in our furry friends.


Set on 20 acres with 15 sprawling play yards, Castro Valley’s Club K9 provides a resortlike stay for your pooch.

Photo courtesy of Club K9

Dog-Training Classes

Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF)

Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) offers classes on manners, agility, and puppy socialization. Photo courtesy of ARF.

Established in 1991, after then–Oakland A’s Manager Tony La Russa saved a stray kitten that wandered onto the field during a game against the New York Yankees, La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) is a no-kill shelter and an advocate for animal rights. While the Walnut Creek–based organization has rescued more than 38,000 cats and dogs since its inception, it does more than save animals; ARF also offers behavior education programs. Diablo spoke with public class dog trainer Kylie Reed about ARF and its classes.

Q: As a dog trainer, what appealed to you about ARF?
The team supports each other. We share plans so we’re as efficient and effective as possible, and not reinventing the wheel every time. We also work on tons of behavior programs. The dogs here aren’t just waiting to be trained by the public; they’re also getting pretraining before they go into homes, so they’re really set up for success. The classes are a continuation of that philosophy.

Illustration by Paddy Mills

Q: What are ARF classes like?
A: I only have a dog with me for about five to 10 minutes out of the 45-minute class because the goal is to help owners learn how to train their dogs. I do a lot of human coaching and a lot of cheerleading. Helping people understand [how] they can work and bond with their dog more is one of my favorite things.

Q: What types of things do you teach pet owners?
Taking something an owner may have previously seen as a nuisance and helping them learn that it’s actually a wonderful thing. [With] adolescent dogs that pull on their leash toward every person they see—owners ask me, “Is that wrong?” I say, “It means you did an excellent job at socialization. It means they love people, so now, we’re going to teach them how to greet them nicely.”

Q: What are some common questions you get in class?
One of the questions I get is, “Will I always have to reward my dog for their behavior?” And I ask, “Well, do you always expect a paycheck?” Dogs do not work for free! We go over how to start using less treats and using more real-life rewards, but no dog will continue to sit over and over for just a “good boy.” They want to be rewarded with real-life things. Walnut Creek, arflife​.org.


Dog Tired Adventures takes energetic pups on hikes and local parks. The company also does neighborhood walks and home visits. Photo by Kerylin Mott.

Dog Walker

Dog Tired Adventures

"I really can’t say enough about Kerylin Mott and [her business], Dog Tired Adventures. My retriever, Gordo, gets so happy when he sees her at the front door. He literally starts dancing when he knows it’s her! She is so professional and organized, and goes out of her way to help me when I’m in a bind. She is great about working on obedience, too. Dog Tired is a blessing to working families!" Alamo, Danville, and San Ramon, dogtiredadventuresca.com. — Alexis Martinez, Danville




Snuggling with your pup is considerably less enjoyable when he or she smells like, well, a dirty dog. Enter ShamPooches, which offers both a self-bathing tub (by appointment) and professional pet-grooming services. If you’re too busy to drop off and pick up your dog, ShamPooches also provides a low-fee pet taxi service ($10 one way) for customers in the surrounding area. San Ramon, shampooches.us.


Gretchen Adams has been photographing pets,  children, and families (such as this one) since 1999. Photo courtesy of Gretchen Adams Photography.

Pet Photographer

Gretchen Adams

Forget that blurry smartphone shot: For the perfect pic of your four-legged friend, leave the photography to the professionals. Gretchen Adams and her team have tons of experience working with furry models and will capture the essence of pets in photographs you’ll treasure forever. They’ll install the framed shots in your home, too. Concord, gretchen​​adams.com.









Furry friendships are made in  Club K9’s spirited play groups. Photo courtesy of Club K9.

Overnight Pet Boarder

Club K9

Pets deserve a luxe vacation, too. If you are heading away on a trip, send your dog for a fun-filled stay at the full-service Club K9, Castro Valley’s 20-acre canine resort. Small touches—like personal attention to each dog and soft music during bedtime—help pets feel safe, while the 15 expansive outdoor play yards (tailored to each dog’s size, temperament, and play style) supply plenty of space for exercise. Also consider some extra pampering for your pet, with Club K9’s professional grooming services. Castro Valley, clubk9.com.


Artist Jennifer Heller’s striking portraits give animal owners a Postimpressionistic view of their pets. Art by Jennifer Heller.

Animal Art Form

Editor Pick: Van Gogh My Pet

Have you ever wondered what your dog, cat, bunny, or other animal companion would look like through the eyes of Vincent van Gogh? Jennifer Heller of Van Gogh My Pet can give you a pretty good idea, as she creates pet portraits in the style of the Postimpressionist master. But Heller uses more than paint in her artwork: She also asks owners to share special memories of their pets so the animal’s spirit comes through in her vibrant, expressive images. Oakland, ​van​goghmypet.com.







Pet Store

Pet Food Express

This California pet-store chain is based in the East Bay, with its corporate offices—Pet Food University—​and distribution center located in Oakland. To better understand the wide-ranging impact of Pet Food Express, Diablo dug up some data about the organization. Multiple locations, petfoodexpress.com.


By the Numbers

22: Stores in the East Bay.

1980: The year Pet Food Express opened for business.

5,000: Approximate number of adoption events the company holds annually.

20,000+: Homes Pet Food Express finds for homeless animals every year.

$2 million+: Approximate value of donations—in money and products—the organization provides to schools, police K9 units, and pet rescue groups and shelters each year.

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