‘Wagging Wonderland’ to celebrate all things canine

ENCINITAS — The holiday season will kick off from noon to 4 p.m. Nov. 20 with a Wagging Winterland celebration at the Elizabethan Bakery on the grounds of Sunshine Gardens.
The event is hosted by Denise Clifton, owner of Pupologie Pet Boutique; dog psychologist Linda Michaels; and San Diego Positive Pet Professionals, or SDPPP. The organization is comprised of veterinary, rescue and pet-industry professionals who subscribe to positive, green and non-aversive pet care services and products.
Proceeds from the event will benefit the Boston (terriers) Brigade Rescue Group.
The festival will feature baked goods provided by the Elizabethan Bakery, a dog kissing booth and mini-beauty makeovers. A certified dog massage therapist will also be available.
Mini-consultations will be provided by Dr. Jennifer Stewart, integrative veterinarian; Dr. Tamara Hebbler, holistic veterinarian; and Michaels, who is licensed in the Victoria Stilwell positive-reinforcement approach to dog training. A small donation for services will be requested to benefit the cause.
“Wagging Winterland is my first sponsored benefit as a local Victoria Stilwell dog trainer,” Michaels said. “Supporting businesses who put dogs before dollars, while benefitting dogs in need of forever homes, is my long-time dream coming true.”
Photographers Dennis and Cathy Nisbet will offer Christmas pictures of Fido with Santa and his sleigh. Dog owners are advised to arrive early as time is limited. Cost is $25 and includes one 8-by-10, one 5-by-7 and four wallet-sized photos. A groomer will be on hand to prepare pooches for the photo session with a fluff and Christmas bow.
Pupologie and SDPPP have donated raffle prizes and silent auction items.
Susan Mayne, also a member of SDPPP, quit her job as a nursing professional to start Boston Brigade Rescue Group. Today she travels to Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties pulling dogs from shelters.  
“Our intake of dogs has just about tripled the last two years, and yet donations have gone down by about 80 percent of what they were two years ago,” she said. “I get phone calls and e-mails on a daily basis from people who have lost their jobs or homes and can no longer either afford to care for their dogs, or are moving into an apartment, or with relatives who will not allow the dogs to come with them.”
Mayne added that the group relies solely on volunteers and donations applied toward vetting bills for the care of incoming dogs.    
Like Mayne, Clifton changed careers to pursue a childhood dream of helping animals.
“I left my job as boutique manager at the Cal-a-Vie health spa in 2003 and got a job as a management trainee at Pet Nutrition Center,” she said. “It ignited a huge passion. Within six months I was promoted to manager, regional manager and, finally, general manager of five stores.” During this time, Clifton hired future husband, Brendan Clifton, as assistant manager of the Del Mar store.
Clifton subsequently bought the Encinitas store, and recently changed the name to Pupologie. 
“The owners of Pet Nutrition Center taught me to read labels on pet food,” she said. “I learned that the government was not protecting our pets’ food supply, and that it was legal to sell byproducts with toxins in dog food.”
Since then Clifton has become immersed in the field of pet nutrition, keeping her team informed of the latest research, which they pass on to customers.
“I really try to support smaller (pet food) companies that are family-owned,” she said. “It’s not about numbers, it’s about passion and integrity.”
Clifton says she also educates customers about the importance of spaying and neutering, and avoiding puppy mills. 
“If a customer tells me they are looking for a purebred, I encourage them to visit the Helen Woodward Animal Center, Rancho Coastal Humane Society or Petfinder.com,” she added. “I also support rescue groups by donating food that is discontinued or near expiration, and hosting adoption events.”  
Visitors to Wagging Winterland are asked to bring dog and people-friendly pets only. Dogs must be leashed at all times. To protect their health, puppies under the age of 6 months will be not permitted to attend. For more information about the event, contact Michaels at (858) 259-WOOF (9663) or Mayne at (760) 634-3262. 

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