Ever since she was a little girl in the Dominican Republic, Maria Oliveira only wanted to heal animals and be a mother. So when she was diagnosed with Stage 3B breast cancer in 2007 and doctors explained her chances of survival were slim, she accepted that her life was complete. But that didn't mean she gave up. Instead, she went to work every day to treat the animals she'd come to care so desperately about. "In a weird way I think it healed me," Oliveira says. Although she wouldn't advise anyone — man or his four-legged best friend — to abandon chemotherapy for a petting zoo, Oliveira thinks there is something inherently therapeutic in caring for animals. She's been in remission since 2008 and is, as always, working full time in the clinic she opened back in 2001. Oliveira vaccinates, microchips, conducts surgeries, and advises owners on preventive care for their pets in her South Miami clinic. When she's not working, you can find her at home caring for her two daughters, two dogs, and four cats.

Natural K9
Courtesy of Natural K9 Supplies

Miamians have gone all in with juicing, cleansing, and organic everything, from toothpaste to body wash. So why do so many Magic City pet owners still tromp through the big chain pet stores, where garish cat and dog costumes and flimsy feather toys share space with the equivalent of McDonald's for dogs? Especially when the holistic pet product train has now pulled into the 305. Natural K-9 is full of all-natural, chemical-free food, treats, medicinals, and grooming materials for dogs and cats. OK, there aren't quite as many toys here, but the store's focus is the overall well-being of pets. That's why it carries raw food and everything from freeze-dried to grain-free to specialty, limited-ingredient brands such as Great Life dog food. You'll pay a little more — an eight-pound bag of Great Life's buffalo dog food runs $26.39, for instance, but it's made with real lean buffalo meat and a bucketful of other great ingredients like kelp and kale sprouts. The staff is friendly, hands-on, and incredibly knowledgeable, and if your pet has allergies or specific dietary needs, or is just fussy, they will weight the pros and cons of every brand to help you choose the best option. You've already realized how much that box full of organic produce makes you feel better; why condemn Fido to another bowl of GMO factory-farmed nonsense?

Furry Paws Pet Resort
Photo courtesy MaxNorman Pet Photography

There once were two dogs named Daisy and Bean,

the cutest, most lovable pooches you've seen.

They lived with their people, who loved them so much;

together they always ate breakfast and lunch.

But one day their people decided to go

on a two-week vacation to Acapulco.

The people were scared, with much apprehension,

of leaving their dogs without love and attention.

They needed to find the perfect selection

for Daisy and Bean to be safely protected.

Well, Daisy and Bean needed somewhere to go

that was fun and had people to throw them a bone —

a bone made of cookies that helped clean their teeth,

and plenty of water, and plenty to eat.

The people decided to ask all their friends,

and one name was mentioned again and again.

They found there were webcams in this lovely place,

to connect with their doggies across cyber space.

It sounded so nice that they called to make sure,

that this separation was one they'd endure.

The lady they spoke to was nice and polite,

and with that they decided on booking their flight.

And Daisy and Bean went right off in a hurry

to a hotel for dogs that loves paws that are furry.

(Furry Paws Pet Resort day care runs $24 per day, while overnight boarding costs $40 per night.)

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®