Gone to the dogs: Animal lovers of the Capital region unite

Whether you're a dog person or a cat person (or a gerbil person, a snake person, or a parrot person) chances are, your pets play a significant role in your daily life. Caring for them, building relationships with them, and keeping them healthy is a major commitment that can last years. So you're lucky you live in Lansing, a city with a thriving pet community and a vast number of businesses dedicated to making the Capital region a more animal friendly location.

There's something fishy about it...

If you've ever been through Old Town, you've seen the gorgeous underwater mural that lines the side of Preuss Pets. It's a testament to their love of all things aquatic. But while the outdoor art is eye-catching, the inside is another kettle of fish entirely. Tortoises, bearded dragons, and tarantulas inhabit the reptile department, while the cacophony from the bird section is unmistakably fowl. Nearby, a brightly coloured bus houses gerbils, rats, bunnies, and ferrets.

At the back of the store, like a world unto itself, is the aquarium department. Row upon row of tanks, filled to brimming with gorgeous corals, plants, exotic fish. A literal paradise, if you're a piscaphile. And that's exactly what Rick Preuss is. His love affair with aquariums began in early childhood and developed into a life-long passion. But's it's not just about the fish. Aquariums, Preuss explains, are good for your health. They reduce anxiety and lower stress, a fact that's supported by research done at the National Marine Aquarium.

When Preuss Pets first installed a fish tank in a Lansing Post Office back in the early 90s, the transformation was almost immediate. Preuss says that workers there claimed the daily problems they dealt with at the counter practically disappeared. People relaxed watching the fish while they waited, and it had a positive impact on everyone's mood. The same phenomenon was noted at the Ronald McDonald House, where Preuss installed, and still maintains, an aquarium in honor of his late mother. "It's one of the ways we can benefit the community," he explains.

It's a dog's life!

Time and again, research has shown that loving animals is good for us. Snuggling a cat reduces stress (unless you have allergies, of course!) and the simple act of stroking your dog's head or brushing his coat results in lowered blood pressure. Pet ownership has even proven to shorten the duration of post-surgical healing. All in all, pets improve our quality of life.

Case in point: exercise. Both you and your dog need regular movement to stay healthy, so having a dog means you're more likely to get off the couch and take a walk. But not every Lansing dog owner has the time for daily walks and grooming sessions. As Janice Milligan, owner of Doggy Daycare and Spa says, "People love their pets, but many of them just don't have time for everything that's involved in dog ownership."

Her solution? Doggy Daycare. "We eliminate the guilt and stress of having a pet and a busy life." Milligan says, "Which is a challenge that many Lansing dog-owners face these days." But challenges are worth facing, when you consider the benefits of pet ownership. "Pets teach children responsibility, empathy and compassion." Milligan explains "They also help people combat depression and cope with stress. It's like they say… a house isn't a home without a dog!"

Birds of a feather...

On the other end of the pet owning spectrum, are the people who want to incorporate their pets into more of their daily life. And for those people, the Lansing area has opportunities as well. Kirbay Preuss, daughter of Rick Preuss, juggles teaching at Our Space Yoga in Williamston, and working in the family business. Searching for a way to unite her two passions - yoga and animals, Kirbay began offering local animal lovers the opportunity to do yoga with their pets.

"I get a lot of positive feedback after animal yoga sessions." she says. "Girls scout leaders tell me they've never done anything like it before, and they really enjoy it." And why not? Working out is good for you, and so are companion animals. It seems a match made in heaven. Which is probably why AnnaBelle's Pet Station has had such a great response to their newest canine training addition - Dog Parkour.

Parkour has garnered a worldwide following over the last few decades, but engaging in the discipline with your dog is a relatively new concept. Jumping, running, climbing, balancing, it's a great way to build stamina and agility, while increasing confidence for both humans and dogs. "It's really popular!" Assistant Manager Katy Robertson explains. "And it's a great way to get outside and get moving with your dog!"

Gone to the dogs!

Owning a companion animal isn't all wine and roses, though. (Or in this case, puppy chow and chew toys.) Some pets come with challenges, both physical and psychological, that can make make daily care difficult. Some of this can be overcome with better education and awareness of that animal's specific needs. But sometimes all a pet owner needs is help from someone who can work with their unique situation.

AnnaBelle's solves this issue for Lansing-are pet owners by offering a full service salon that offers customised grooming services. "One of our specialties," explains Robertson, "Is the fact that we cater to each and every dog's individual needs. We're not a chain, so we can tailor our services accordingly." Some dogs have high anxiety. Others struggle with specific fears, or have certain allergies that make regular grooming a challenge. AnnaBelle's aims to make the process easier and less stressful for everyone.

The cat's out of the bag!

Grooming, exercise and behavior are a major part of dog ownership, certainly. But what if your pet of choice has eight legs instead of four? Or six legs? Or no legs, for that matter. With so many options out there, and a glut of conflicting information, it can be hard to make sure that you're being the best pet owner you can be.

So how do you educate yourself about the specific needs of your pet? Well, you can always google it. But there's no guarantee that the information you're getting is any good. So the best way is to build relationships with the businesses and organizations in your community whose chief concern is animal well being.

This is precisely why Preuss Pets puts so much emphasis on educating their customers and building relationships with pet owners in the community. "The end result of putting so much time and energy into maintaining healthy pets and ensuring well-informed pet owners, is success. And we judge our success on how the pet community in Lansing is doing, because we're an integral part of that." The equation, he says, is simple. Healthy pets, healthy community.

Straight from the horse's mouth.

Lansing is privileged to have lots of individuals, organizations, and businesses who are deeply invested in the animals of the Capital region, and in their owners. Between Soldan's Pet Supplies, who own and operate the local dog park, the MSU Veterinary Clinic, and the Capital Area Humane Society, there are loads of resources for pet owners and animal lovers in the Greater Lansing area.

Looking for information about pet ownership, or considering a new or different pet? Talk to someone at Preuss Pets. Want to help out by fostering or adopting a shelter animal? The Capitol Area Humane Society has you covered. Hoping to train, equip or groom a pet you already have? Annabelle's is your answer. What about volunteering with an organization that cares for animals and educates the community about animal safety? Call the Ingham County Animal Shelter.

Mahatma Gandhi once said that the greatness of a nation can be judged by how well its animals are treated. And if that applies to cities, then Lansing is a great place indeed. Just ask the 3,875 adopted animals who found their 'forever homes' in the Lansing area last year. They'll tell you that the Capital city has totally gone to the dogs!


Sarah Hillman is a frequent contributor to Capital Gains.

Photos © Dave Trumpie

Dave Trumpie is the managing photographer for Capital Gains. He is a freelance photographer and owner of Trumpie Photography.
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