A Blueberry Facial for Fido?"You can't get bored in San Diego. If you're bored, it's because you choose to be."
Donna Walker owns South Bark Dog Wash, a do-it-yourself dog wash that prides itself on carrying affordable luxury grooming products that cater to the needs of dogs, cats and their owners. The shop also offers tasty pet treats, along with training classes, nail dremmeling, ear cleaning, pet photography and appointments with "The Calm Healer," animal communicator Terri Steuben.
Retired from the Navy after 20 years as a chief photographer's mate and filmmaker, Walker's also a registered veterinarian technician. Her love of furry friends is evident in everything she does. When she noticed that clients avoided washing their pets' faces because they were concerned about getting soap into sensitive eyes and ears, she developed the South Bark Blueberry Facial. Made with real blueberry extract, the three-in-one product can be used as a tearless face wash, body shampoo and color brightener.
Active advocates for San Diego's LGBT community, Walker and Lisa M. Vella, her business partner and the co-owner of South Bark, also frequently team up with animal rescue entities to volunteer their services and host events in support of quality care, training, adoption, spay/neutering and education.
"All my animals are always rescues. I adopt as a rule," says Walker. "Animals have always been in my life. I love dogs and cats, am seriously equal opportunity in breeds and species!"
Walker and her girlfriend, Lorna, share their home with two dogs — Luna, a German shepherd, and Izzy, a dachshund terrier mix — as well as two cats, Hermie and Ripley. They also foster a 16-year-old shiba inu/Chihuahua mix named Sally, whose human companion is in a nursing home.
San Diego is definitely a dog town. Walker says there are plenty of great dog runs and grassy off-leash areas to choose from in her neck of the woods. Morley Field allows leashed access to the Florida Canyon Nature Trails, and Nate's Point, located on Balboa Park's west side along the Cabrillo Bridge, provides socializing opportunities for canines and people. Tucked into a residential area in South Park, the Grape Street Dog Park, a 5-acre spread at 28th and Grape streets, is the third largest dog park in San Diego.
Adjacent to the Balboa Park Golf Course, the neighborhood of South Park is home to numerous small businesses, restaurants, quaint cafes, bars, boutiques and the Grove, an independent bookstore and haven for knitters. Quarterly walkabouts invite neighbors and visitors to enjoy live music and entertainment, sample local delicacies and wander through the shops, which stay open late. Hipster hangout the Whistle Stop Bar reigns as a favorite locale for drinking, dancing and catching live music, while the nearby Station Tavern is both kid- and dog-friendly.
After splitting her days between the dog wash and the warehouse where products are stored and shipped, Walker attends author and artist events, shops at eco-friendly home and gift boutique Progress or sips frothy $4 microbrews at the Stone Brewing Co.'s Stone Company Store.
Food is one of her greatest pleasures in life. Her favorite indulgences are the pickle martinis at Alchemy, dining at Sipz Fusion Cafe, a vegan/vegetarian restaurant in Clairemont Mesa, or savoring a hearty meal at La Puerta, a Mexican restaurant in downtown San Diego's historic Gaslamp Quarter.
She may venture far from home, but Walker remains loyal to her 'hood. "South Park is like a small town, a village. It's close-knit, quirky and cool."
Check out Donna's San Diego.