A lifelong dog lover, Larissa knew from the age of 13 that she wanted to work with animals. She received a pre-veterinary biology degree but ultimately decided to pursue a career in dog grooming, focusing on making pups look as they feel when they catch the scraps that find their way under the table while a toddler eats. At Dog Island Grooming, which she co-owns and operates, she offers bathing and grooming packages with routine treatments such as haircuts and nail trims, as well as luxe spa services that include fizzy paw soaks and blueberry facials.
Combining their talents and doubling their time, doctors Keith Niesenbaum and Brian Spar run the Farmingdale Dog and Cat Clinic, a one-stop shop for checkups and outpatient procedures for the most common furry friends. They spay and neuter both pets and strays, vaccinate them against common illnesses, and treat temporary maladies such as the sniffles or minor injuries. They also dedicate a lot of their time to animals not fortunate enough to enjoy human companionship, providing services to rescue organizations, colony caregivers, and those who practice TNR—or trap, neuter, and return—as a method of humanely curtailing the population of strays and ferals.
Hounds Town USA’s friendly staff coddles pups, ushering them to peaceful, private boarding rooms to rest up for days spent cavorting with peers in the expansive doggie play area. Rovers spend the day romping with their fellow canine campers, with playtime bookended by a hearty morning and afternoon feast of Nutro dog food presented in stainless-steel dishes or on the back of a interning cat. When the capering concludes, pups make their way to their private abodes to get a good night’s sleep atop orthopedic, chew-proof bedding. Owners can outfit dogs with a pack containing their own food, bedding, and toys if desired, allowing pups to revel in the sights and scents of home more effectively than scrapbooking their favorite bones.
On the 15-acre parcel of countryside dubbed Winding Hill Riding Club & Show Stables, head instructor and trainer Christy Alexander-Van Eron coaches both horses and humans to become safe and successful competitors. She uses the facilities––including more than 40 paddocks, a pair of outdoor rings, and a large indoor arena renovated with new footing––to accomplish this task, which, in a way, has always been her life's work. Currently a Red Cross- and Horsemanship Safety Association-certified instructor, she's been riding since the age of five and has long been competing at a high level, including showing with hunters and jumpers throughout college. Over her career, she whittled instruction down to three key necessities to producing successful riders: riding for pleasure, competition, or sugar cubes.
NY Kennel Club ensures the well-being of canines of all breeds and backgrounds, from visitors stopping by for a bath and a haircut to rescue puppies looking for a new home. Along with grooming services, which range from simple nail trims to complete makeovers, the cage-free kennel houses its guests in spacious pens, giving the dogs plenty of room to romp. Each pup up for adoption has been thoroughly checked by a local veterinarian, and expert trainers can aid new owners in tasks such as housebreaking—the technical term for when a pet gets a little too excited with a sledgehammer.
As a 4th-degree black belt, Alexander "Soca" Freitas’s fighting resumé is a formidable one. He has won multiple competitions - including the highly prestigious ADCC Championship, where he was also named "Most Technical Fighter" - and is a five-time Brazilian National Jiu-Jitsu Championship winner. He earned his black belt under Carlos Gracie Jr., the son of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu’s founder, and he spent 25 years mastering the grappling art at the Gracie Barra main academy. Since becoming a teacher himself, Soca has awarded black belts to 24 of his students. However, he doesn't try to force any of his protégés into following his footsteps—instead of matching his impressive accolades with an intimidating attitude, Soca welcomes students of all ages, builds, and abilities to his gym.
Soca leads classes in both beginning and advanced Brazilian Jiu Jitsu techniques. The martial-arts discipline depends on leverage and holds rather than weapons to subdue opponents, and he demonstrates these maneuvers during practice drills. Students progress through the curriculum by testing to receive successive belts rather than by wrestling a written exam to the ground. Soca ultimately leaves their goals up to them, whether they hope to perfect their self-defense moves, compete in MMA tournaments, or simply engage in healthy exercise. Aside from standard Brazilian Jiu Jitsu lessons, the gym also hosts private classes, children's classes, and strength-and-conditioning sessions, led by co-owner Samantha Freitas.