A Heart Away From Home pet boutique opens in Westchester
By Haley Beyer
Local pet groomer Angela Anzalone adopted her dog, Berger, 12 years ago. Sadly, the 120-pound White German Shepherd passed away in January after fighting kidney failure. He lived another six months after his diagnosis because Anzalone provided him with the best possible diet and care. Berger was on an all-raw diet, including blueberries for treats, and participated in homeopathic therapy with help from CBD treats to keep him calm and pain-free.
Because of Berger’s inbred genetics, he expressed high levels of anxiety and feared people he didn’t know. He appeared on the Netflix show, “Louis Theroux’s LA Stories: City of Dogs.” During Berger’s episode, dog rehabilitator Brandon Fouche taught Anzalone how to deal with dogs that were more sensitive and struggled with high levels of fear.
Berger’s appearance on the show helped save hundreds of dogs that would have otherwise been put down because of their behavior by proving that just because a dog needs extra care and may be higher maintenance, doesn’t mean they don’t deserve the chance to live a full loving life.
Anzalone wanted to help other dogs like Berger, so she opened Wagz, a pet grooming boutique in Playa del Rey that recently relocated to Westchester. They specialize in grooming dogs that are more difficult to take care of, aren’t as friendly or have underlying issues and special needs.
Anzalone understands the struggle dog owners face and wanted to make it as easy as possible for them. She has even gone a step further in attempt to make the dogs comfortable by refusing to use cages in her shop and has found that she makes a better connection with the animals this way and the dogs are calmer.
After Berger passed, Anzalone was heartbroken.
“My dogs are my kids, but I believe Berger was my soul dog,” Anzalone said.
Wanting to keep Berger’s spirit alive, she decided to open A Heart Away From Home, a pet boutique in his honor, which is located adjacent to her grooming business.
Because of Anzalone’s experience with Berger and seeing so many pets at the groomer, she knew she wanted to make the boutique a place where pet owners could get the best quality products for their dogs and cats.
The store retails toys, treats, accessories and a full line of CBD products. It also carries a wide variety of food including freeze-dried options, kibble, canned and raw (all free of filler).
“Some people show concern about feeding their animals raw food, but animals eat raw food in the wild and I wouldn’t have invested money and time into something if I didn’t see it work with my own eyes,” Anzalone said.
The food was especially important for Anzalone to sell in her boutique because Berger’s diet is what kept him healthy and alive for so long.
“The saying ‘You are what you eat’ applies to animals too,” Anzalone said. “A lot of the health conditions that the dogs who come to me for grooming have could be fixed with a simple change in their diet. I’m not a vet and I don’t claim to be, but I do provide healthy natural foods.”
“At A Heart Away From Home, we believe in everything healthy and everything natural,” Anzalone said. “It’s worth it to spend extra money on high-quality food because the money you spend now will save you from spending even more at the vet later.”
Everything Anzalone does is for Berger, and she opened the store for the sole purpose of carrying on his legacy.
“He changed my world, I miss him every day,” Anzalone said. “My life went to the dogs the day I rescued him…in the best way possible. I do all this for the animals.”
The store opened this past July and Anzalone plans on looking for ways to expand the business in the future. Right now, she and her business partner, Seven Cisneros, are working together to add a few things to the shop. Cisneros is in the process of putting together a website for online orders and delivery. A drive-up window will make shopping more convenient for customers on the run and puppy orientation classes will teach new dog owners all they need to know about taking care of their new furry friend.
But no matter how big the business gets or how well it does, Anzalone will always have one thing on her mind.
“I’m really happy I opened this store, it’s all for Berger,” Anzalone said. “This is Berger’s legacy.”