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Animal Lovers Unite at Bailey Blu Pet Boutique in NDG: An Interview with Pet Nutrition Enthusiast Viki Bristowe

Whether you are a self-proclaimed dog or cat person, pets are often the most sacred and loved beings within any home. Yet, owning a pet in the city can be a challenge, as urban settings conflict with an animal’s natural desire to run around, hunt, and well, be an animal. Enter: Bailey Blu. This fabulous pet boutique, located in NDG and pioneered by entrepreneur Natalie Gore, caters to the urban cat or dog owner, providing professional advice and top o’ the line products. We chatted with Viki Bristowe, Bailey Blu pet nutrition enthusiast and photographer, about the (somewhat gross) practices of the pet food industry, Bailey Blu’s passion for pet nutrition, and the shop’s overall commitment to customers and the well-being of their animals.

So, what are some of the biggest misconceptions about pet nutrition?

We strongly believe that ‘you are what you eat’ and this is no different for our animals. The most glaring misconception is that bagged, convenience dry food is the only ‘dog’ and ‘cat’ food safe enough to feed your animal because it’s ‘specially formulated’ and ‘balanced’. Unfortunately, the pet food industry is poorly regulated and often pushes products full of physiologically inappropriate ingredients such as cheap grains and questionable sources of protein.

The industry proliferates misinformation on an enormous scale and consequently, pet food manufacturers have done very well by placing profit above the health and well-being of pets. Did you know that meat-and-bone meal is very likely the rendered remains of euthanized cats and dogs? Or maybe even road-kill? Yep, very questionable sources of protein. These practices have been very well-documented and while it’s recognizably abhorrent, it still continues – this is why we carry in-house raw food diets for cats and dogs alike (by the company Two Dogs Raw).

Whoa my god. What are the consequences of feeding this bad stuff to our pets?

We see the consequences of feeding low quality, carb-heavy foods first hand every day: unbearably itchy skin and itchy paws, chronic loose stools, ear infections, obesity, kidney problems, urinary tract issues – the list is endless. What’s frustrating is that it almost always can be avoided or remedied with a simple change to a species-appropriate diet of good quality meat protein.

How does Bailey Blu differ from other pet food stores in Montreal?

What ultimately differs us from a run-of-the-mill pet food store is we recognize that we have an obligation to educate the public and promote values of responsible pet ownership, which is desperately lacking in Quebec. We are vocal supporters of local and national non-profit animal rescue groups, and we are proud to host regular ‘adoption days’ at the store. We also offer nutritional consultations, and we follow-up – we’re not just here to sell a product and make a buck. We deeply care about the relationship we have with our customers and their animals!

Oh, and at the store, we also have the fabulous opportunity to work with a crazy Vizsla named Blu (pictured). He’s the Bailey Blu mascot (and half of its namesake) and when he’s not greeting customers at the door or trying really hard to be a lapdog, he’s happily chewing on raw bones and dehydrated duck feet. The customers adore him.

Which products are the most popular?

Well, when we’re not talking animal nutrition, we’re selling amazingly comfy dog beds (I know because I took a nap in one once, after work hours of course…), wool sweaters and jackets for our bitingly cold winters, eco cat and dog toys, dehydrated chews, all natural supplements and shampoos – we’re forever on the lookout for the unique and the practical and we have products for every price point. You want it? We’ve probably got it, and if we don’t have it, we’ll get it for you!

What are some of the major challenges pet owners face in a big city, and subsequently, in a small home?

Montreal is woefully lacking in good, open, legal spaces for dogs to run around in. Lack of proper exercise and diet are big reasons for why so many dogs are overweight. Another challenge pet owners face in this city is finding housing that allows animals – it’s become increasingly difficult to find apartments that allow cats, much less dogs. Where are we supposed to live exactly?

The Baily Blu Facebook photographs are wonderful! Can anyone just walk in with their pet for a photo?

Thank you! As a photographer and pet nutrition enthusiast, I could not have found a better place to work. I’ve become the official ‘documentarian’ of the comings and goings of Bailey Blu and most of our doggie visitors have made it onto our Facebook page for everyone to ‘ooh’ and ‘aww’ over. We’ll soon be offering pet photography sessions and packages at Bailey Blu (stay tuned!), but for now I busy myself with impromptu photo shoots with our regulars.

My roommate and I are considering getting a kitten. Any advice about where we should look?

Save a life and adopt! Rescue groups are swamped with abandoned pets that could use a good ‘forever’ home. Absolutely never buy from a pet store because they are more than likely from a puppy/kitty mill and purchasing them just continues the vicious cycle of animal neglect and abuse.

Eleven Eleven Animal Rescue is an NDG-based animal rescue group that we have a great fondness for – they take incredible care of their animals and find amazing homes for each and every one.

Bailey Blu (6152 Sherbrooke West) is open seven days a week; get in touch at 514-507-4526.

~ Tyler Yank

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