Beast of the Bay 2010

Pt. Isabel saved from commercial development; Lots of rescued dogs found loving new homes; Barak Obama became President


Best Off-leash Dog Run

Winner: Pt. Isabel Regional Shoreline, 2701 Isabel St. (west end of Central Ave.), Richmond 

Runners-up: Fort Funston, SF; Crissy Field, SF; Cesar Chavez Park, Berkeley


Best Dog Park

Pt. Isabel Regional Shoreline, see address above 

Runners-up: Fort Funston, SF; Duboce Park, SF; Albany Bulb, Albany

Point Isabel Regional Shoreline is home to the largest (23 acres) public off-leash dog park in the U.S. It received a whole lot of attention from our voters in this year’s contest, perhaps because its unique beauty was threatened in 2009. Sometimes you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s (almost) gone. The developer who wanted to build a massive restaurant and retail complex on the Richmond shoreline nearby eventually withdrew his rezoning request, partly due to impassioned public outcry, so this paradise for pooches and their people is safe for now. To stay in the know, consider join Pt. Isabel Dog Owners

More info and a map are available at

NOTE: While visiting Pt. Isabel, be sure to visit the Sit & Stay Café at Mudpuppies, adjacent to the parking lot, a runner-up for Best Fresh Water Bowl and Best Canine Coffehouse.


Best Hiking Trail

Winner: Ft. Funston, 500 Skyline Blvd., SF

Runners-up: Sutro Trail, SF; Briones-Mt. Diablo Trail, Contra Costra Co.  

Fort Funston in San Francisco is one of the few GGNRA properties that allows off-leash trail use.  Boy, are dog lovers appreciative.  The rolling dunes and pounding surf make for spectacular viewing while walking/hiking through the sandy foot paths or strolling along the wheelchair-accessable paved path.  Be sure to keep Fideax out of the fenced areas.  The mixed-use status is constantly at risk, and the Fort Funston Dog Group ( keeps a vigilant eye on new developments. There’s a parking lot, port-a-johns, and more hills to roam than your dog can shake a stick at. Be respectful of all park visitors, with or without canine companions, to help continue the good-will fight for public space that all can share.


Best Canine Sports Event

Winner: Agility

Runners-up: Rally; Flyball; Dock Diving

Note: Many of our readers also expressed appreciation for the SF giants and Oakland A’s dog-friendly games each summer. Can’t call pro baseball a “canine sport,” but it sure is fun when our dogs come along!


Best View with a Dog

Winner: Seaview Trail, Tilden Park, Berkeley

Runners-up: Crissy Field, SF; Fort Funston, SF; Bernal Hill, SF  


Best Small Dog Play Group/Event

Winner: SF Chihuahua Meetup,

Runners-up: SF Boston Terrier Meet-up; Alameda Small Dog Playgroup


Best Large Dog Play Group/Event

Winner: SF Great Dane Meetup,

Runner-up: Joaquin Miller Large Dog Park Events


Best Dog-friendly Lodgings

Winner: Russian River Getaways,

Runners-up: Sheep Dung Ranch, Boonville; Cypress Inn, Carmel

Russion River Getaways offers dozens of vacation rentals that welcome you and your pal, in a gorgeous part of Northern California known as the Russian River Valley. All are within easy driving range of the wine country and the ocean, and some are located directly on the Russian River or on Austin Creek. Their (90%+ dog-friendly) properties range from small cottages to large bunkhouses – family reunion, anyone? RRR’s optional offerings include in-home massage and chef services, grocery delivery, wine tours, and even dog-care if you are inclined to eat out at one of the exceptional dining establishments in the area that won’t seat the furry ones. Winter specials are available thru March on some properties: an extra night free with any 2- or 3-night reservation.


Best Canine Happy (Yappy) Hour

Winner: Doc’s Clock, 2575 Mission St., SF

Runners-up: Stray Bar, Cortland Ave., Bernal Heights; Enrico’s Sidewalk Café


Best Fresh Water Bowl

Winner: Best in Show, 545 Castro Street, SF

Runners-up: Paws & Claws, Oakland; Mudpuppies at Pt. Isabel, Richmond

The name of this sunny and bright dog boutique always makes us giggle, recalling the Christopher Guest movie of the same name. Shop at Best in Show for the most fashionable of doggie attire and pet supplies, as well as Wegman-print tote bags, “woof” ball caps, and much more for the human in the family. The store provides water bowls for many neighborhood businesses, so your best friend will feel welcomed (and be quenched) when visiting the lovely Castro. 


Best Free Treats

Winner: Pugnacious Pet Provisions, 1820 Solano Ave., Berkeley

Runners-up: Pet Food Express (multiple locations); Dog Bone Alley, Alameda; Jeffrey’s Natural Pet Foods, SF


Best Dog-friendly Restaurant

Winner: Christopher’s Nothing Fancy Café, 1019 San Pablo Ave., Albany

Runners-up: Bill’s Café, San Jose; Park Chow, SF


Best Canine Coffeehouse

Winner: Duboce Café, 2 Sanchez @ Duboce, SF

Runners-up: Sit & Stay Café at Mudpuppies, Pt. Isabel, Richmond; Farley’s, SF and Oakland

In San Francisco’s many distinctive urban districts, the precious public spaces where humans and dogs can mingle in harmony are the heartbeat of the ‘hood. If they offer a good cuppa Joe within frisbee-throwing distance of a dog-friendly park, all is right with the world.  Duboce Park Cafe and its sister establishment, Dolores Park Cafe, fill the bill with style, offering hot breakfasts and sandwiches/lunch fare, always with friendly service, 7am-8pm daily. One more thing to love: owner Rachel Herbert supports the local neighborhood and many City non-profits with generous contributions of food and beverages.  


Best Dog-friendly Winery

Winner: Mutt Lynch, Healdsburg

Runner-up: Rosenblum Cellars, Alameda; Larson Family Winery, Sonoma


Best Pet Superstore

Winner: Pet Food Express, (multiple locations)

Runners-up: Petco; Petclub

Locally owned and operated Pet Food Express won voter support by a large margin in this category. A commitment to great customer service is evident at all PFE locations, and regular mobile adoption events at many stores signal a strong community-mindedness. Pet Food Express is a Bay Area phenom, not a nationwide chain, so shoppers can rest assured that their pet supply dollars are helping to create local jobs and otherwise stimulate the economy right here at home. Of course, none of this would matter if you couldn’t find what you needed at PFE. No worries: their large selection of in-stock products covers all the bases.


Best Pet Boutique

Winner: Hazel & Gertie’s,  3385 22nd St., SF

Runners-up: Holistic Hound, Berkeley; Paws & Claws, Oakland

A few steps down from the sidewalk, on the basement level of a beautiful mixed-use Victorian in the Mission/Valencia, Hazel & Gertie’s offers great goods and a great vibe. From “basic” supplies like home-made dog food to high-end garments for your pooch (especially dog-in-the-right-arm duds), this store helps your precious pet go in style.  H&G’s supports local artisans and businesses, and you can too by letting your pup try the doggie bagels and other locally made fare for sale. There’s even a doggie wash-station sporting a claw foot tub. Fifi will feel so at home here, and so will you.


Best Doggie Birthday Present 

Winner: Paco Collars, 2905 Shattuck, Berkeley,

Runners-up: Unstuffables; bone (but of course)

If you need a present for the pooch that has everything, why not pick something that will last a lifetime (guaranteed). A Paco Collar, made in Berkeley and available by mail-order wherever you are, is just the thing. Choose from a wide selection of artisan-crafted leather-with-studs-and-stones designs, or have something totally original custom crafted for your special birthday boy or girl. You can purchase a matching wristband or belt at the store or at, and feel just as stylish as your fierce Poodle or hipster Pitt Bull pal.


Best Locally Made Dog Stuff

Winner: Paco Collars, 2905 Shattuck, Berkeley,

Runners-up: Mijo & Bambi,; Aroo Studios,


Best Veterinary Clinic

Winner: Creature Comfort Holistic Veterinary Center,  2501 McArthur Blvd., Oakland,

Runners-up: All Pets Hospital, SF; Pets Unlimited, SF


Best Veterinarian

Winner: Jenny Taylor, Creature Comfort Holistic Veterinary Center, 2501 McArthur Blvd., Oakland,

Runners-up: Calvin Lum, SF Veterinary Housecalls; Emilia Gordon, VetSOS


Best Alternative Medicine Provider

Winner: Creature Comfort Holistic Veterinary Center, 2501 McArthur Blvd., Oakland,

Runners-up: Kathy Kerwin, Pleasant Hill Veterinary Hospital; Maureen Burkley,

A sick or injured dog can send us into crisis mode – we want to do the best for our furry friends, but they can’t tell us what’s wrong. Skilled and compassionate veterinary care is essential to help us navigate the stress and uncertainty, and to facilitate the best outcome for our canine companions. According to our readers, one place you can count on at such times is Creature Comfort, and particularly clinic founder Dr. Jenny Taylor. In addition to traditional western veterinary care, holistic modalities such as acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic care, and herbal therapies are popular treatment options. 


Best Canine Rehab

Winner: The Rex Center, 1040 Palmetto Ave., Pacifica

Runners-up: Muller; Scout’s House, Menlo Park; Dr. Andrew Sams Clinic, Mill Valley

Says The Rex Center’s head swim coach, Cathy Chen-Rennie, “We’re actually a multi-faceted dog exercise, swimming, holistic services, and training center, not an official ‘re-hab’ center. She’s not exaggerating. With classroom space hosting educational seminars and puppy prep, plus a pool room with the biggest hot-tub/lap pool you’ve ever seen, Cathy and partner Susan run a friendly and community-oriented facility.  Located in lovely Pacifica, all it takes is an easy 15-minute drive from SF to get some gentle, effective exercise for your pooch who suffers from joint problems, recent surgery, or too many pounds. If you’re committed to the health and well-being of your short-legged companion, get thee to The Rex Center for some fun and fitness.


Best Groomer

Winner: Lena Swann, All About the DOGue Salon and Spa, 3850 San Pablo Ave., Ste. #105, Emeryville

Runner’s Up: Bernie’s Grooming, SF Animal Care & Control; Wizard of Paws, Berkeley; Fetch Pet Care, Mill Valley


Best Dog Walker

Winner: Molly Kenefick, Doggy Lama Pet Care,

Runners-up: Courtney Gunter, The Whole Pet; Michael Murphy, Uncle Michael’s Dogtopia, SF

Want a dog walker/sitter who will give your precious Fifi or Bruno all the love, fun, and attention she or he deserves? Well, you might want to pick somebody like Molly Kenefick, owner of the East Bay’s Doggy Lama Pet Care. She has loads of 5-star Yelp ratings and offers one extra-special service: photos of your dog having fun at the beach uploaded to her Flickr account, where you can peruse them while chained to your desk. Nice to know that somebody’s off-leash! Molly’s crew of professional dog lovers serve furry clients in Berkeley, Oakland, Richmond, and Hayward. Overnight boarding in a home setting is another super service on offer.


Best Dog Sitter

Winner: Courtney Gunter, The Whole Pet, SF, 

Runners-up: Molly Kenefick, Doggy Lama Pet Care; Michael Murphy, Uncle Michael’s Dogtopia, SF; North Beach Petsitter (various individuals)


Best Doggie Daycare

Winner:  High Tail Hotel, 2275 Revere Ave., SF,

Runners-up: Pride & Pedigree, Oakland; Metro Dog, Albany; Pet Camp, SF


Best Overnight Boarder

Winner: High Tail Hotel, 2275 Revere Ave., SF,

Runner’s Up: Metro Dog, Albany; Citizen Canine, Oakland; Pet Camp, SFBest Training Classes

On a recent visit to High Tail Hotel, we could see why our voters were so enamored – the dogs have virtually free run of this officially-recognized Green Business that supports other local enterprises. The facility is quite large, with faux grass-covered areas sectioned off to accommode packs of different temperaments and sizes. The cage-free layout has a seperate area for special needs guests, and over-nights are attended by staff sleeping onsite.


Best Training Class

Winner: Sirius Dog Training,

Runners-up: Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society’s K-9 College; Sandi Thompson, Bravo Pup; Bob Gutierrez, A Better Way Dog Training

When veterinarian and canine behaviorist Ian Dunbar started Sirius Dog Training way back in 1980, classes for puppies were unheard of and harsh punishment for bad behavior was a commonplace professional practice. Dunbar has been a mover and shaker in dog training and behavior ever since, has authored numerous books on the subject, and deserves a lot of the credit for the “positive methods” philosophy that has taken hold in our culture in recent years. Our readers said “hats off” to Dunbar and to Sirius. The company’s website is a fabulous resource for all dog owners, especially the free online library of training articles and videos called Dog Star Daily. 


Best Private Trainer

Winner:  Nancy Frensley, Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society, 2700 Ninth St., Berkeley; 

Runners-up: Bob Gutierrez; A Better Way Dog Training; Courtney Gunter, The Whole Pet; Bev Ulbrich, The Pooch Coach


Best Dog Photographer

Winner:  Jesse Freidin,

Runners-up: Mark Rogers; Terry White, Unconditional Love; Kendra Luck, Dogumentarian

As all of us who have ever tried to photograph our own beloved dogs know, it’s not as easy as it looks. To capture a great composition, an attentive expression and that special spark that is clearly apparent in your short, furry friend, hire a professional like reader’s pick Jesse Freidin.  His old-school (read Hasselblad) black-and=white approach to his subjects offers fine-art images worth more than 1000 words. 


Best Dog Artist

Winner: Jim DeWitt,

Runners-up: Kathry Beals; Diane Wat


Best Rescue Group

Winner:  Muttville,

Runners-up: BADRAP; Furry Friends Rescue; Milo Foundation; Rocket Dog Rescue

“Muttville’s mission is to change the way the world thinks about and treats older dogs and to create better lives for them through rescue, foster, adoption and hospice.” Muttville’s mission statement stru ck a chord with a whole lot of our voters, and for good reason. Dogs deserve loving homes,no matter their age, and too many wind up in shelters following the death of their human companions or are surrendered because they are slowing down. Founder Sherri Franklin began her love affair with older dogs at the San Francisco SPCA in 1994, where she was known as the fairy godmother of the so-called “unadoptables.” Feel the love and support the cause at


Best Humane Organization

Winner: Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society, 2700 Ninth St., Berkeley; 

Runners-up: SF/SPCA; Marin Humane Society


Best Canine Cause

Senior dog rescue (specifically Muttville)

Runners-up: Pit Bull rescue (specifically BADRAP); Pets Are Wonderful Support (PAWS),


Best Canine Fundraising Event

Winner: PAWS Petchitecture,

Runners-up: Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society Bay to Barkers; Muttville Moolah for Mutts; SF/SPCA Bark & Whine Ball


Best Dog-Related Social Networking Site




Best Online Pet Boutique




Best Online Vet Advice




Best Overall Site for Dog Lovers



This comprehensive site for dog lovers could keep you browsing for hours. If you don’t  need advise on choosing the right dog breed (mutts encouraged), just click around until you find your topic of choice. There is plenty of info to be had about dog health, training, adoption, and much more, plus forums and fun “gimmicks” like the quiz to find out what dog you most resemble. Jack Russell Terrier here. Hats off to the folks at for recommending adopting puppies rather than purchasing them from pet stores or questionable breeders: “Shelters offer a wide choice of pre-owned models, many already user-friendly and configured for immediate home use.” Check out the site for essential pet info, for like-minded social networking, and for a lively dose of canine culture.

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