Visualize: Artsy Bags of Abandoned Dog Poo Around Bernal Hill

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Neighbor Richard has found a creative outlet in the little bags of doggie poo he often finds around Bernal Hill:

I submit that these pictures are worthy of your publication if only for the insidious danger and warning to our community they represent. Surely nobody has submitted pictures of s*** so beautifully wrapped and photographed in a natural park setting? What can be done? What shall we do?

Like many Bernal denizens, I walk frequently upon our glorious hill — and I’ve been doing that for some 15 years now. I cannot help but notice this strange practice has been increasing over the past year, and it really bespoils the hill for everyone. It has always amazed me that so many many dog owners are so irresponsible. No fault is due the dogs, but some owners, after using a plastic bag for the inevitable, will not carry it to the trash receptacle once the deed is done. Instead they leave the gift wrapped poop plainly in sight for someone else to pick up behind them. At least they don’t sling it into the bushes (although I haven’t really checked).

These are pictures I took Saturday late afternoon during just one 30 minute walk around the hill.

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PHOTOS: Neighbor Richard

Spotter’s Report: Which of These Bernal Birds Is the Mostest Cutest?

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Neigbor John and his 7 year-old son Eddie have been out bird-watching again, and they bring us this update on some of the avians they’ve spotted recently around Bernal Heights:

Getting good focus on the birds is really hard, as they move around a lot, and the plants have a tendency to attract the auto zoom. But we have great birds on the hill, and this is one way to share them.

Here are three super cool birds all found in less than fifteen minutes in the pine trees just up Bernal Heights Boulevard near the gate on the north side of the hill.

The first is a Nutthall’s Woodpecker. We are more familiar with the Ladder Backed Woodpecker, but it generally doesn’t come this far north and the red is a bit further back on the head of the Nutthall’s, which you can clearly see here. There must be a ton of bugs in the dead trunk just up from the live pines as this woodpecker was pecking ferociously:

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The Pygmy Nuthatch and Chestnut Backed Chickadee are in a dead heat for cutest bird on the hill. Here’s the Pygmy Nuthatch:

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Birds standing still in the nice light is a highly unnatural act, and the cutest birds seem to be the most shy. Here’s the Chestnut Backed Chickadee:

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It looks like we also have a pair of Red Tailed Hawks nesting on the hill. If you look closely, you can see nesting material in the hawk’s beak. I hope we can look forward to a few months of serious hawk activity:

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PHOTOS: Neighbor John and Neighbor Eddie

Bernal Neighbors Co-Found High-Tech Veterinary House Call Startup

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Against the backdrop our our recent neighborly conversation about pet etiquette and urgent pet care, Bernalwood learns that a team of Bernal neighbors have banded together to launch VetPronto, a new pet-tech veterinary startup.

Neighbor Joe writes:

Hi. My name is Joe Waltman and I recently moved to Bernal Heights (north slope) with my wife (Lindsay) and two kids (Maddie – 6 months and Will – 2.5 years).

I wanted to let pet-owning Bernalese know about our company, a house-call veterinary service called VetPronto.

We would like to think that house calls are more convenient for the owner and less stressful for the pet. If your furry friends need to see the doctor, please consider a VetPronto house call. And, if you have any questions about your pet’s health, we provide free answers from licensed veterinarians here.

Folks seem to be digging it on the Yelp, and VetPronto even got a fancy write-up on TechCrunch:

A new company looking to make it more convenient for pet owners to see their local veterinarian, VetPronto, is now live in San Francisco. A member of the Y Combinator Winter 2015 class, VetPronto is offering on-demand house call veterinary services for dogs and cats, allowing customers to skip a visit to the clinic or just see a vet at a more convenient time – like on evenings and weekends, for example.

The company was founded last spring by Brian Hur, Joe Waltman, and Soren Berg, the latter two who previously sold their email marketing company to Twitter. Meanwhile, Hur is a former Microsoft systems engineer-turned-vet.

“Once I got into the veterinary industry, I noticed there were a lot of gaps in technology all the way through,”Hur explains. “And since getting out and practicing medicine, I’ve really focused on bridging those gaps and making sure that veterinary medicine can be upgraded for the dot-com era.”

A practicing vet since 2011, Hur did the first 100 or so VetPronto appointments himself, before the company contracted with other area veterinarians. Today, it has five vets working part-time and is soon adding a sixth to serve its customers in San Francisco, which is the startup’s main geographic focus for now.

Here’s the pitch video:

PHOTO: Neighbor Joe Waltman and family, via VetPronto

An Introduction to Our Local Sparrows, as Spotted Recently on Bernal Hill

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Neigbor John and his 7 year-old son Eddie live on Lundys. They’re heavy into bird-watching, and they inform us that Bernal Heights is actually a rather lively place to spy the local avians.

Neighbor John tells Bernalwood:

Here are three photos I took while bird watching with Eddie this morning. Within 100 yards on the south slope of Bernal Heights Blvd. we saw all three of the varieties of sparrows that can be seen on the hill.

The White Crowned Sparrow is obvious, with the distinctive white stripes on its head. They are currently in their “first winter” plumage:

White Crowned Sparrow

The second is the Golden Crown Sparrow, also in the first winter plumage. While you can clearly see the gold color on its head, the color will brighten as we head into spring:

Golden Crowned Sparrow

The House Sparrow is actually an ally of the finches. It has a distinctive, if boring, slate gray scalp, which is more than made up for with the black breast and colorful brown back:

House Sparrow

One of the lessons we are learning from bird watching with Eddie is to take joy in watching common birds. And, when you look closely, they have interesting stories as well!

PHOTOS: Neighbor John and Eddie

Four-Legged Foodies Rejoice: Fancy Pet Food Store Opening on Precita Park

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The commercial space on the northwest corner of the Precita/Alabama intersection has seen many transitions in recent years.

That wasn’t always the case; For around 100 years, it was just a typical San Francisco corner store. That changed in 2011, when the corner store closed. Then it became an ill-fated children’s art center and gym, which was followed in by an ill-fated pet grooming shop.

Now the wheel has turned again, and 433 Precita is set to become… a natural pet food store!

The new place is called Jeffrey’s Natural Pet Food, and Bernalwood is told it will offer a mix of house-made and locally produced organic dog and cat cuisine, in all your favorite flavors. Like, for example, Canine Beef, Yams, and Broccoli

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… or Feline Turkey and Polenta:

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The full menu of Jeffrey’s house-made food is right here.

The About page tells us:

Jeffrey’s Natural Pet Foods is the best source of raw, organic and all natural pet foods, treats, supplies and information in San Francisco. At Jeffrey’s, we make our own locally sourced, fresh, handmade pet foods and treats.

Jeffrey’s Fresh Meat Pet Foods are prepared five days a week, using fresh and locally sourced ingredients. Our food contains only the highest quality ingredients: raw, free range meats free from hormones and antibiotics, fresh organic vegetables, vitamins and minerals. Our food is a great choice for your dog or cat.

The Precita Park outpost will be Jeffrey’s third; the other two are in The Castro and North Beach.

If all goes according to plan, Jeffrey’s Natural Pet Foods will be open this weekend. No word on plans for weekend brunch service; or if they do wedding, bar mitzvah, or quinceañera catering; or if reservations are required for parties of more than six.

Meanwhile, if you listen carefully, you might just hear the sound of a certain change-averse Bernal neighbor‘s head imploding just a few blocks away: “Gourmet organic pet food?  Whaaaaaaaaaat???!”

PHOTOS: Top, Telstar Logistics. Below, Jeffrey’s Natural Pet Foods

Bernal Author Jon Mooallem Stars in “Mooallempalooza” Double-Feature Podcast

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Regular readers of Bernalwood will recognize Neighbor Jon Mooallem — he’s a Bernal Heights literary superstar, Pop Up Magazine celebrity, and high-five scholar. To that impressive list of glamorous accomplishments, we can now add another: Neighbor Jon is also the namesake and star of Mooallempalooza!

Mooallempalooza is a special double-feature podcast created by the awesome 99% Invisible team, and it’s a lovely way to experience Neighbor Jon’s myriad talents:

As you probably know, 99% Invisible is a show about the built world, about things manufactured by humans. We don’t tend to do stories about animals or nature. But our friend Jon Mooallem writes brilliant stories about the weird interactions between animals and humans, interactions that are becoming ever weirder and more designed. Mooallem is a writer with the New York Times Magazine and for Pop -Up Magazine, the live magazine in San Francisco, which is where we first heard these two stories. You might remember them as episodes #40 and #91 respectively, but now we present them together in a radio special we’re calling Mooallempalooza.

Your Bernalwood editor listened to Mooallempalooza in the car during a lazy drive back to Bernal Heights over the winter break, and it left me smiling all day. Tune in to Mooallempalooza to hear Neighbor Jon explain the true history of the Teddy Bear, along with a live performance of selections from his book, Wild Ones, with musical accompaniment from the band Black Prairie. It’s so wonderful.

Enjoy Mooallempalooza right here, or on your favorite podcasting app (just search for 99% Invisible).

It will fill you with earthly amazement, creative inspiration, and neighborly pride.

PHOTO: Jon Mooallem

Holiday Season Pro Tips for Bernal Dogs, Cats, and the Humans Who Love Them

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Neighbor Nicolette Zarday lives on Bernal’s tony west side, and she works as a veterinarian at Adobe Animal Hospital in Los Altos. (You might remember her from such previous pearls of Bernal Heights pet wisdom as  “Foxtails: Delicious But Deadly.”) With the holiday season fast approaching, Neighbor Nicolette has shared some tips on how you and your critters can get through it all with your good cheer intact.

She tells Bernalwood:

Tis the season to eat holly, as well as poinsettias, chocolate, tinsel, ribbon, raisin spice cake, turkey carcass, and whatever is in the garbage can. You have no idea how delicious the compost bin smells this time of year.

At the pet hospital where I work, we generally see a lull in emergencies and appointments after the summer, but business ticks up around the holidays. Many of the problems are caused by “dietary indiscretion,” as we like to call it. Heartfelt gatherings of family and friends end an emergency pet hospital visit when the family dog starts throwing up after plundering an unattended kitchen. Some kitties just can’t wait until Christmas day to open the presents.

Here are some of the top holiday hazards to keep in mind. It’s not an exhaustive list, because pets always find ways to surprise us. Yet these are some of the more common reasons for pet ER visits this time of year.

Chocolate:  The darker, the more intense, the better for humans — and the more toxic for pets. Most people know chocolate can be toxic to dogs and cats, because animals don’t metabolize the caffeine-like compounds well. Halloween candy is rarely a problem, since that “chocolate” is mostly high fructose corn syrup and processed junk. But the good stuff that starts showing up for the holidays can cause trouble. Chocolate ingestion can be quite serious, but fortunately it’s rarely fatal if treated promptly.

Raisins, Grapes, and Currants: This has the veterinary and pet-owning community flummoxed. We still don’t know what makes these so deadly. Even garden-grown, organic grapes have caused illness. Fortunately, ingestion rarely results in illness. But when it does, however, kidney failure develops, often leading to death.

Fat: Yes, it makes everything taste more delicious. Drippings on the foil that’s in the garbage, turkey skin, leftover gravy, buttery creamy dishes… this time of year is ripe with fatty delights.While not technically toxic, excessive ingestion of fat can cause a give a dog a very upset stomach, and more seriously, acute pancreatitis.

Bones: Turkey carcasses, meat bones, chicken bones… they can get stuck in the esophagus, or create an intestinal blockage, or, more commonly, general digestive unhappiness. Fortunately, if bones make it to the stomach and stay there for a few hours, stomach acid will usually dissolve most of them.

Stringy Things: Here’s a diagnosis you never want to hear from your veterinarian: “linear foreign body.” This tends to be a problem for cats, who love to chase stringy things, but we see it in dogs too. Ribbon from wrapped gifts or tinsel from the Christmas tree gets caught on the tongue, and then swallowed. The gastrointestinal tract, doing its gastrointestinal thing, tries to move the string down the tract, but one end is caught on something higher up. The intestines get bunched up on the taut string, and it’s really bad. These animals act sick: not eating, very lethargic, usually vomiting. Surgery is the only solution.

Holly, Mistletoe, and Poinsettias: These plants are mildly toxic if ingested in small amounts, causing nothing worse than gastrointestinal sadness. In greater quantities, neurologic signs can develop.

Wild Mushrooms: This has nothing to do with the holidays, but in Northern California, we start to see mushrooms popping up this time of year because of the rains. Most mushrooms are not a big problem, but the ones that are bad are really bad and can cause liver failure. Puppies are often victims because they’re the least discriminating. Keep an eye on what goes into your dog’s mouth at all times.

Remember: Call your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your pet has ingested something that may be a problem. If you suspect a toxin, look it up: the Pet Poison Helpline or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control page have great information and 24 hour call-in services.

Be safe and stay merry!

IMAGE: Christmas cat via Wikimedia Commons