Have some last-minute shopping to do for some pets and their people? Have no fear: Local pet stores and tack shops carry a wide range of gifts sure to meet all needs and budgets.
One Stop Pet Shop in Amagansett certainly lives up to its name. Shoppers playing Santa to a variety of species will find One Stop an invaluable help. The store carries Christmas stockings filled with toys and treats for cats, dogs, ferrets, and birds.
Pet Hampton in Wainscott also carries stockings for the furred and feathered, and if you need a stocking for an unrepresented species the shop will gladly create a custom-made one.
The "Tickle Me Elmo" of the canine set is the fleece squeaky toy. "They are the hottest sellers," said Sue Leonardo of One Stop Pet Shop. "They sell well year round, but the ones made especially for Christmas with Santa heads, snowman heads, and the red and green ones with Happy Holidays printed on them do incredibly well."
Marla Gagnum of East Hampton has a Christmas tradition of giving stuffed animals to her three dogs. She used to buy stuffed animals made for people, but she's discovered that the plush toys made especially for dogs stand up better to the rough treatment they often receive.
"They can take a lot of punishment," she said. "They get left out in the rain and get frozen over. Then they thaw out in the spring and are as good as ever. And the dogs still love them."
Paws and Claws of East Hampton sells plush toys in the shapes of barnyard animals that when squeezed make the appropriate sound of the animal they represent. Aren't dogs startled by this? "When my Labrador retriever first heard the pig toy oink at him he was afraid of it, but he carries it around in his mouth all the time now," said Kim Levins, a customer in Paws and Claws.
The toys available for cats reflect the contradictory nature of the beast. On the one hand, there are the high-action wand toys that stimulate the predatory instincts of cats, inciting them to feats of acrobatics. On the other hand, there are the catnip toys, which appeal to the more voluptuary tendencies of the animal.
Paws and Claws, One Stop Pet Shop, and Pet Hampton all sell wand toys or their variant, cat ticklers. Cats, with few exceptions, love them and they help provide exercise for the animal, but they do require human participation. The Turbo Scratcher toy is a good substitute for cats whose owners can't stop and play. However, my panel of feline judges gave the wand toys a much higher rating.
A Perennial Favorite
Catnip toys are a perennial favorite. One Stop Pet Shop carries a dizzying array of catnip toys with Christmas motifs. Catnip leaves contain nepetalactone, a hallucinogen pleasurable to cats. It is entirely harmless and can be given in any amount, says Dr. Mark Davis of the South Fork Animal Hospital, for the animals will self-limit their intake.
But, owners should beware, for catnip stimulates play-fighting behaviors. Handle a kitty under the influence with care; her inhibitions may be lessened but her scratching aim will still be true.
Mary Shefferman, editor-in-chief of Modern Ferret Magazine and author of "The Ferret: An Owners Guide to a Happy and Healthy Pet," recently published by Howell Books, said the Ferret Freeway toy is a huge success with Sabrina, Ralph, Marshmallow, and Knuks, her resident ferrets. And, if there's a hamster on your list, the Speed Track Racer available at One Stop Pet Shop may be just the thing.
Certain guidelines should be followed in choosing toys for pets. Always buy toys made specifically for the species of pet. No cat toys for dogs, for example. If the toys come in a range of sizes it is best to buy one that's too large rather than too small. Animals, dogs in particular, can swallow a small toy and choke.
People should choose the most durable toy. Some of the softer squeaky toys are easy for the dogs to rip apart. They can swallow the metal squeaker, which then has to be surgically removed, said Dr. Davis.
There is some controversy about rawhide chews choking dogs, but Dr. Davis said, "Rawhide is okay, but I'd advise people to buy the bigger bones and remove the rawhide from the dog when he's chewed it down to a very small size."
Made In The U.S.A.
Many experts advise only buying rawhide chews manufactured in the United States, since they are processed by a standardized method that generally prevents the treats from breaking into large chunks on which the dogs can choke.
Ms. Shefferman said that no toys made of latex rubber or foam should be given to a ferret. "Many toys sold as ferret toys are really just repackaged cat toys and sometimes they are not safe," she said. A good rule of thumb when toy shopping for a ferret: if they can sink their teeth into it, don't buy it.
Horses and their people require so much equipment they have stores devoted exclusively to their needs. However, Horse Haven in Southampton also carries some of the higher-end dog equipment and apparel. "We have a line of unique handwoven collars and leads in a Southwestern motif. They're one of a kind and very special," said Lisa Kot, owner of the store.
If Horses Could Talk . . .
From blankets to bridles and leadlines to halters, local tack stores carry many gifts possibilities, but if horses could talk they'd doubtless make a request for one (if not all!) of the several types of horse cookie treats available, such as the Apple Oaties carried by the Tack Trunk in Amagansett.
If you are shopping for the rider rather than the horse, all the local tack stores carry lines of mid-priced, easy-care, casual wear that's fashionable on the street as well as in the saddle.
There are many lovely gifts available for young riders. The Tack Trunk carries the Kerrits line of clothing - fun, great looking, and very durable. And its owner, Lee Bistrian Keyes, reported that the book "Pony Talk" by Judy Richter is very popular with budding equestrians.
Books And Tapes
Brennan's Bit and Bridle in Bridgehampton carries an extensive line of Breyer horses. These horse models have been a leading item on the wish lists of young riders for several decades now and are still well made with great attention to detail.
Riders, adults as well as juniors, are always seeking to learn, so instructional books are appreciated gifts. Ms. Keyes says the Tack Trunk has been selling a great many copies of "Ann Kursinki's Clinic," while Kelly Bailey of Brennan's Bit and Bridle says the book "In the Irons" by Gary Benson has been a big seller.
And, if you wish to give a gift that will inspire as well as instruct, Brennan's Bit and Bridle is carrying video tapes of the equestrian events from this past summer's Olympic Games.
An excellent choice for the dog owner yearning to know just what is going on behind thoses soft brown eyes would be Dr. Nicholas Dodman's illuminating book "The Dog Who Loved Too Much." Dr. Dodman is the director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine and an internationally known expert in domestic-animal behavioral research.
Dr. Dodman details his experiences with "problem dogs" in an engaging and engrossing manner and his suggested treatments are refreshingly practical. Cat lovers will have to wait for Christmas '97, when Dr. Dodman's book on cat psychology and behavior will be available.
A book that will fascinate all animal lovers is "A Perfect Harmony" by Roger Caras, a former East Hampton resident. The auther examines an aspect of human history that is too often overlooked: the contribution that domestic animals have made to civilization.
Species by species, some commonplace, others more exotic, Mr. Caras describes the origins, development, and vital role each has played in our cultural evolution. The comforts and conveniences we enjoy today are possible because of domestic animals, and that is reason enough to include them in our holiday gift-giving.