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Posh pets

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By Tracy Harris

Dogs are man’s best friend, and man is willing to pay for the privilege. Pet owners continue to spend big bucks on their companions — not just dogs, but cats and other small animals, too.

Norma Rash is one of those. 

She has three dogs and one cat — she calls the dogs “the boys” and admits they are spoiled rotten.

“Nothing is too much for the boys,” she said.

About two years ago she said she spent a “fair chunk” of money to replace the back door so she could install a heavy outside door with a dog door into the backyard — which had to be fenced-in.

She also pulled out all the carpet in the kitchen, den and dining rooms and put in laminate for easier cleaning.

Rash estimates she spends thousands per year in medical expenses for the dogs.

Veterinarians diagnosed Wrigley, a 9-year-old German Shepherd, with hip displaysia while still a puppy. 

Soon after, Rash’s daughter, Jessica Bowman, took Wrigley to the Ohio State University Veterinary School for a total hip replacement early in life.

One of the other dogs, Foster, is a “medical diva,” Rash said. Foster has epilepsy and takes 14 pills a day, seven every 12 hours.

“I have to be here or schedule someone to come in if I am gone,” she said. 

“Some people think I am a little over the top for these dogs, but they have become my family now that my kids are grown and gone,” she said. 

Rash, and countless animals lovers like her, are the customers Oldham County entrepreneurs are hoping to find.

The area is home to a number of unique products and services aimed at local pet owners.

The latest to join is Tanya Turner, whose Hand-In-Paw Woofery opened Saturday in La Grange.

Turner decided to open the store after teaching pet first aid and CPR classes for the past year. 

When her pug, Adrienne, choked several years ago, Turner saved the dog using canine CPR skills learned 14 years before.

After the incident, Turner wanted to brush up on her skills and have her son, Nathan, learn canine CPR.

But, Turner discovered no trainer would certify someone Nathan’s age – he’s now 9. 

Turner realized children are often the ones around the pets, and believes children need to be educated, responsible pet owners.

So she became a licensed Pet Tech instructor — one of only six in the Louisville area.

While teaching the classes, Turner realized her desire to educate people about their dogs’ well-being extends beyond medical emergencies.

Turner’s new bowser boutique offers a range of dog foods, accessories and safety products. Her focus is on natural, chemical-free foods and treats, and she carries some lines that can’t be found elsewhere in the state.

While Hand-In-Paw is a stationary store, other Oldham County business owners have gone mobile.

Karen Mitchell Lanz is a veterinarian on the go — with a twist.

Lanz offers acupuncture for dogs and cats. Mostly she treats older, arthritic dogs, and treatments cost $60 to $100.

The procedure is just like human acupuncture — thread-like needles are inserted at various acupoints to relieve pain. 

The practice is common in China, where practitioners have used needles to stimulate specific points on both humans and animals for thousands of years.

According to the American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture, Lanz is one of only 16 small-animal acupuncturists in Kentucky.

Shaggy Dog Mobile Pet Grooming, owned by Blaire McDaniels, cleans up pups in Oldham County.

The van is equipped with tools to bathe and trim dogs, including their toenails — making what is often a stressful experience a pleasant one. 

Instead of spending the entire day in a kennel, surrounded by barking dogs, McDaniels provides one-on-one attention to each pet.

She said the service is great for busy pet owners — she can come to an owner’s home or office — and for pets that don’t travel well.

McDaniels grew up in La Grange and now lives in Henry County. Most of her business is in Oldham, but she said she covers Henry and Jefferson counties as well.

She sees 20-30 dogs each week, she said. 

Like other pet-related business owners, McDaniels loves what she does.

“I am so very lucky to be able to interact every day with pets and pet parents who I get to build relationships to over time,” she said.

And there are also pet businesses that are really for the owners — like Hound and Hoof Pet Photography in Prospect.

“Anyone who has ever loved an animal knows each one has a truly special depth of soul,” said owner Beth Andrews. “My job is to capture that spirit in a still image.”

Andrews said her joint love of animals and photography inspired the business, which has 550 fans on Facebook.

While those are some of the unique businesses in Oldham County, there are numerous groomers, veterinarians and pet food stores.

According to the American Pet Products Association, 62 percent of U.S. households have a pet — up from 58 percent when the organization first surveyed the country in 1988.

And despite the recent recession, total pet industry expenditures continue to rise. 

A decade ago, the APPA calculated expenditures at $28.5 billion. In 2011, that number rose to almost $51 billion.

The industry group said trends show an increased desire for environmentally-friendly products, from natural litters to toys made from recycled plastic bottles. 

More human products are also going to the dogs, with retailers like Bed Head, Harley Davidson and Old Navy producing pet products.

Sure, the James Brown song claims “it’s a man’s world” — but in Oldham County and across America, it seems like it’s Fido’s and Fluffy’s world, too.