This spring, readers entered their dogs in Mpls.St.Paul Magazine‘s Top Dogs photo contest. The grand prize winner was selected by popular vote, and our editors chose three runners-up in the categories of biggest heart, most inspiring, and fur-cutest.
By Popular Vote: Top Dog
Photo by Leslie Plesser
Arnie, french bulldog Age: 2
Arnie, French Bulldog Age: 2
In June 2015, Minneapolis resident Heather Hanna adopted a 1-and-a-half-year-old French bulldog, an American Kennel Club show dog given up because he couldn’t keep on enough weight to meet breed standards. Hanna took him home to her husband and their other two Frenchies, and renamed him Arnie after his doppelgänger Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Despite a flawless appearance, Arnie’s health problems became apparent almost immediately. He could barely breathe through the smooshed nose that had contributed to his show dog success. He would overheat on the shortest walks, and had trouble breathing while eating or drinking. He would begin to asphyxiate when lying down, so he would sleep standing up or with his head propped on something hard. “He would often pester me in the middle of the night to wake up,” Hanna remembers of those first weeks. “I think he got scared when he couldn’t catch his breath.”
Arnie had a severe case of brachycephalic airway syndrome, a collection of upper airway abnormalities. Hanna brought him to many vets, but multiple procedures to ease his breathing proved unsuccessful. While researching more options, she came across the work of ear, nose, and throat veterinarian Dr. Gerhard Oechtering, who pioneered canine breathing surgeries at Germany’s Leipzig University. Two months later, Arnie was in Oechtering’s operating room for three surgeries: alaplasty, vestibuloplasty, and laser-assisted turbinectomy (LATE). Though he went into cardiac arrest, the medical team was able to save him. Today he’s finally breathing easy, and can enjoy long hikes with Hanna. “It is like my little guy woke up from a nightmare,” she says. “Now he doesn’t even snore.”
Arnie is the first American dog to undergo Oechtering’s surgeries, and his story has since inspired another French bulldog owner to make the overseas trip. Soon, American dogs won’t need passports to breathe easier. The University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine is opening a brachycephalic treatment center later this year.
Hanna hopes Arnie’s story will inspire breeders to put dogs’ well-being first. “A terrible injustice has been done to these brachy breeds for purely aesthetic reasons,” she says. “People must start breeding for health over appearance—give these dogs their nose back.”
Arnie’s Twin Cities: When he’s not traveling the world with his humans, Arnie loves riding in a bike basket around the lakes, lounging on a dog-friendly patio, or spoiling himself at LuLu & Luigi and Bone Adventure.
Editor’s pick: Biggest Heart
Photo by Missy Haugen photogrpahy
Watson, American bulldog/boxer/american pit bull mix Age: 11
Watson, American Bulldog/Boxer/American Pit Bull mix age: 11
Sometimes, dogs and humans rescue each other. Watson came into Nate Kells’s life as a puppy in 2005, when Kells was living in Florida working for Miami Children’s Museum. The city was bracing for the imminent arrival of Hurricane Katrina, and a co-worker had found Watson tied to a light pole outside their office that morning. “When I opened the office door, there he sat. He was shivering under the desk. I fell in love!” Kells remembers. The day Katrina hit, holed up in Kells’s apartment, the pair listened to the wind howl outside. “We helped each other stay calm during the storm,” he says.
The two have been inseparable ever since. Kells, who had been paralyzed in a car accident in 2003, trained Watson to be his certified service dog, and they moved to his native Minnesota shortly after. Watson is now an expert at helping Kells open doors and drawers, turn lights on and off, alert him to dangers of fire, smoke, strangers, and more. “Watson has what I would call an ‘old soul,’” Kells says. “He loves everyone he meets, his demeanor is immediately calming, and his ability to sense my emotions and show affection when I need it most is one reason I am where I am today.” Watson seems to share his human’s sentiments. His favorite things include roaming the wetlands near their Waconia home, lounging lakeside at Lola’s Lakehouse, cleaning out a peanut butter jar on a lazy afternoon, and cruising with Kells in their convertible.
Watson’s Quirk: “He sleeps like a human. He has to have his pillow in the right spot, so he nudges it until it is just right.”
Editor’s Pick: Most Inspiring
Rocky, Terrier mix age: 2
Rocky, Terrier mix age: 2
Rocky loves running alongside his canine brother Buddy, the cool grass under his paws and the warm sun on his back. This typical dog behavior wasn’t natural for Rocky, who was rescued from a high-kill shelter in Texas the day he was to be euthanized. His scars and fear of other dogs and people suggest he was likely used in dog fighting before arriving at the shelter.
“I saw Rocky’s picture on Ruff Start Rescue’s website and read his short, very sad story, and I knew he was the one for our family,” says adoptive mom Melanie Ueland. She was informed of Rocky’s tendency to run away and hide from people, places, sights, and sounds. “All of this should have been a giant red flag, but I just had this feeling he would be OK with our family.”
Ueland was right. Rocky jumped up on the couch and stayed close to her side the day he came home. But it wasn’t easy. “We had to carry him from room to room, and up and down the stairs at first,” she says. “He would just lay by the front door looking for the opportunity to run away . . . After about a month I noticed he was no longer looking to escape.” It’s no wonder Rocky’s rescuers refer to him as the “most challenging rescue” they’ve ever had. But Ueland takes it in stride now, and says his fearful tendencies are likely PTSD from his former life of abuse. Though Rocky loves to run and play, those who interact with him must always be particularly gentle—something that will likely be true for the rest of his life.
Now, showered with love and affection, his personality shines. He warmly greets new house visitors, snuggles up to his family after a long day, and jumps on his hind legs, wiggling his butt for a treat—a happy ending for a dog that almost didn’t have a chance.
Rocky’s human counterpart: “Robert Downey Jr.—he’s struggled through adversity with great success. Plus, he played Iron Man, and Rocky deserves to have some of that superpower mojo going for him.”
Editor’s Pick: Fur-Cutest
Ella, chihuahua/Beagle Age: 3
Ella, Chihuahua/Beagle Age: 3
In 2013, Amanda Simmer and her son, Alec, agreed to foster a chihuahua/beagle puppy from a recent litter rescued by Midwest Animal Rescue & Services (MARS). “Our family travels a few times a year, so I thought this could be the perfect little lap dog,” Simmer recalls.
Six-year-old Alec fell in love with Ella the moment she jumped in his lap and fell asleep on the car ride home. He even picked out her name: “My son thought she looked like an elephant because her ears were bigger than her head, so we called her Ella.” Though, their little lap dog came with a surprise: “Boy was I in for a shock when she grew to 35 pounds her first year,” Simmer says. But from the start Ella was more than a foster dog; she needed to be a permanent member of the family.
Three years later, Ella rules the roost, and 9-year-old Alec is her baby. She watches over him, protecting him from any approaching human or dog—no matter the size. When she’s not on guard duty, she enjoys getting pawdicures in go-to shades: Princess Pink and Rockin’ Red. And, this girl is particular. “If we move her food bowls, she refuses to eat until they’re back in proper location,” Simmer says. “She also won’t wear a collar unless she’s leaving the property . . . [to Ella] that’s like a human wearing a nametag around the house.”
This well-mannered fashionista loves to socialize and shop. Her favorite spots are PetSmart in the Quarry for the latest Martha Stewart dog clothing, Dairy Queen where she hopes for a frosty treat, and patios where there’s plenty to sniff and see. One thing is for sure: this pup’s got more than pink nails, she’s got a heart of gold.
On Ella’s shopping list: “Another harness dress—many of her clothes [by design] don’t allow her to wear a harness leash, and collar leashes are way too restrictive and dog-like for her.”
Resource Guide for Dog Owners
Animal Humane Society |Golden Valley, Buffalo, Coon Rapids, St. Paul, Woodbury, animalhumanesociety.org | Open-admission shelter housing animals big and small at its five locations.
Midwest Animal Rescue & Services | Mpls., 763-503-4990, midwestanimalrescue.org | Nonprofit rescue group housing adoptable dogs and cats in foster homes, with obedience training.
Pet Haven Inc. of MN | Mpls., 952-831-3825, pethavenmn.org | Nonprofit rescue placing dogs and cats in volunteer foster homes until they are adopted.
Safe Hands Rescue | Mpls., safehandsrescue.org | Nonprofit rescue saving stray and abandoned animals, and animals living in high-kill shelters.
Secondhand Hounds Animal Rescue | Eden Prairie, 952-322-7643, secondhandhounds.org | All-breed, nonprofit dog and cat rescue.
Ruff Start Rescue | Princeton, 763-355-3981, ruffstartrescue.org | Foster-based rescue that speaks about responsible pet ownership.
Boarding, Exercise, and Day Care
ADOGO Pet Hotel | Multiple locations including Minnetonka, 952-933-5200, adogopethotels.com | Designed after 4- and 5-star human hotels, ADOGO has overnight boarding and doggy daycare with light rock music for playtime, and classical music for naptime.
Animal Inn Pet Resort & Spa | Lake Elmo, 651-777-0255, animalinnpetresort.net | It sits on 13 acres with large yards for playtime, plus onsite grooming services.
Dog Day Getaway | Apple Valley, 952-431-9663, dogdaygetaway.com | DDG offers daycare, boarding, playgroups, self- and full-service bathing, and training.
Dog Days | Three St. Paul locations, 651-642-9663, dogdaysinc.com | Dog Days’ three locations offer daycare, boarding, training, and grooming.
Metro Dogs Daycare and Boarding | Mpls., 612-333-3612, metrodogsmn.com | This doggy daycare is convenient whether you work or live downtown, and real-time webcams make it easy for you to check in on your pooch.
Pampered Pooch Playground | St. Louis Park, 952-922-8183, pamperedpoochplayground.com | This doggy daycare and hotel also has grooming services, webcams, and a “dog of the month” posted to the blog.
Pets Are Inn | Multiple metro locations, petsareinn.com | No kennels. No cages. Pets are boarded in carefully screened private homes.
Snaggle Foot | 612-710-8568, minneapolis.snagglefoot.com | Professional walkers pick your dog up at home for a walk while you’re gone.
Top Dog Country Club | New Germany, 952-353-2600, topdogcountryclub.com | Pet boarding akin to a doggie vacay, with fresh-baked biscuits and bedtime stories.
Woofington | Wayzata, 952-471-1070, woofington.com | A luxury pet resort designed for small-breed dogs. Includes lodging and daycare services, as well as a comprehensive spa.
Bark & Bathe | Robbinsdale, 763-203-3889, barkandbathe.com | Offers both full-service grooming and self-serve baths in a fun, modern space. Bathing stations have stairs and ramps for Fido’s convenience, too.
Bubbly Paws | St. Paul, 651-964-4590; St. Louis Park, 952-657-5300; Maple Grove, 763-390-2411; bubblypaws.com | Bathing stations have stairs so large breeds and senior dogs can walk right in, no lifting required. Doggie facial scrubs, too!
The Dog House | Hopkins, 952-926-2794, thehopkinsdoghouse.com | The two ladies who started the biz 36 years ago have formed a steady roster of standing appointments.
Ollu Dog Wash | Mpls., 612-331-1025, olludogwash.com | Offers both self-serve baths and full grooming, depending on how you like to do the ’do.
Lucky Dog Pet Lodge | Bloomington, 952-767-2040, luckydogpetlodge.com | Boarding, and daycare all under one roof, with 18,000 square feet of outdoor play space to boot.
Petropawlis | St. Louis Park, 952-500-8668, petropawlis.com | It’s a family-owned and operated one-stop dog shop, from grooming and supplies to daycare and boarding.
Posh Pooch | Woodbury, 651-578-7674, poshpoochpetboutique.com | Pamper your pet with this one-stop shop that includes a boutique and salon services.
Woof Central | Richfield, 612-866-9663, woofcentraldogs.com | Drop your pooch off to play for the day and he’ll be all squeaky-clean when you return.
Zoom Groom | Hopkins, 952-297-5234, zoomgroomllc.com | Pamper your pooch at this cage-free spa.
Affiliated Emergency Veterinary Service | Multiple locations including Eden Prairie, 952-942-8272, aevs.com | Blaine and Eden Prairie locations are open 24 hours a day—including holidays—for emergency care at all times.
Apache Animal Hospital | Mpls., 612-781-2734, apacheanimal.com | Emergency and urgent care six days a week.
Banfield Pet Hospital | Multiple locations including Mpls., 612-789-2337, banfield.com | Located alongside most PetSmart stores, Banfield offers full vet services and wellness plans.
Caravan Vet | 612-385-7663, caravanvet.com | The only full-service vet mobile in the metro, Caravan Vet makes house calls to provide care to pets without the stress of a vet visit.
Como Park Animal Hospital | St. Paul, 651-487-3255, comoparkanimalhospital.com | This St. Paul primary care clinic also has urgent care services on nights, weekends, and holidays.
Gehrman Animal Hospital | Minnetonka, 952-545-9161, gehrman-animal.com | Recognized by the American Animal Hospital Association for its excellence.
Inver Grove Heights Animal Hospital | Inver Grove Heights, 651-451-4404, ighvet.com | Providing wellness check-ups, health screenings, and surgical procedures.
Mission Animal Hospital | Eden Prairie, 952-938-1237, missionah.org | A full list of services are provided, and payment is based on income.
Rockford Road Animal Hospital | Plymouth, 763-559-7554, rrahospital.com | Full-service pet hospital with surgical, medical, and dental care, and health education for pet owners.
University of Minnesota Veterinary Medical Center | St. Paul, (for small animals) 612-626-8387, (for large animals) 612-625-6700; vmc.umn.edu | A clinic serving emergency and non-emergency pet health, the small pet hospital is open 24/7.
Village Animal Hospital | Minnetonka, 952-474-4194, villageanimalhospital.org | Comprehensive vet care, with surgery and dentistry on site.
Products & Services
Aska Pet Spa and Boutique | St. Paul, 651-222-6367, askapetspa.net | Pet food, accessories, grooming supplies, and a grooming salon.
Bone Adventure | Multiple locations including Edina, 612-920-2201, boneadventure.com | A neighborhood-focused boutique with healthy pet food, quality toys, and treat samples.
Chuck and Don’s Pet Food & Supplies | Multiple locations including Mpls., 612-455-0561, chuckanddons.com | Take your best friend to the store to sniff the selection of natural pet food and treats like Zuke’s, and toys and accessories.
The Dog Perk | Mpls., 612-354-7113, thedogperk.com | You need custom dog bandanas and you need ‘em fast.
Fetch Delivers | Mpls., 612-338-2433, fetchdelivers.com | Home deliveries to get your dog wagging and wondering if it’s food, treats, toys, or other supplies.
It’s a Pet’s Life | Plymouth, 763-476-7372; Edina, 952-831-1229, itsapetslife.com | Offering a variety of organic and natural foods, grooming products, and natural alternatives to flea and tick treatments. Free local delivery.
LuLu & Luigi | Multiple locations including Wayzata, 952-249-0330, luluandluigi.com | A boutique stocked with apparel, accessories, and an onsite dog bakery.
Raws for Paws | Mpls., 612-721-4411, rawsforpaws.com | Specializing in human-grade food for dogs. Have it shipped right to your home.
Sidewalk Dog | sidewalkdog.com | From dog parks to pooch-friendly patios, it's a Twin Cities guide to all that’s dog-friendly in town.
Scoopy Poo | Edina, 612-374-3000, scoopypoo.net | Why do it yourself when you can pay someone to do it?
Shinola | Mpls., 612-338-5493, shinola.com | Your favorite chic shop also sells posh collars, leashes, toys, and beds for dogs.
Woody’s Pet Food Deli | Multiple locations including Mpls., 612-208-0335, woodyspetdeli.com | A human-grade dog food deli with raw food options. You won’t find kibble here.
The Canine Coach | Multiple locations including St. Louis Park, 612-202-4732, thek9coach.com | Offers onsite and in-home training for one pooch or a whole pack, from basic obedience to disc dog, scent work, and agility courses.
Cloud Nine Training School for Dogs | Hopkins, New Hope, 952-939-9174, cloudninetraining.com | Agility, obedience, and therapy dog classes, plus play groups, a dog gym, and even canine massage therapy.
Fetch Dog Training and Behavior | Mpls., 612-387-5271, fetchmpls.com | A full spectrum of training, including rehabilitation for dogs who are fearful, reactive, or aggressive. Busy? They’ll even train your pup while you’re out.
Minnesota Dog Training—Neuman K-9 Academy | Hugo, 651-653-3770, mndogtraining.com | Training for pups of all ages: dog boot camp, canine obedience classes, puppy camp, and service dog training.
Twin Cities Obedience Training Club | Mpls., tcotc.com | Established in 1945 as one of the first dog-training clubs in Minnesota, pups learn the basics, and many graduate to courses in tracking, agility, or therapy.
Wag ‘N Woofs | Eden Prairie, 952-224-4491, wagnwoofs.com | There are several levels of group obedience classes, as well as an aptly named “Freak on a Leash” class for dogs who are reactive to other dogs while on a leash.