Sometimes we think our pet has a better life than we do. We knew for sure we were getting a little nutso when we decided that our crazy schedule was putting too much stress on the pooch, so we hired a doggy concierge to keep him entertained. Golden Paw meets all our canine concerns when we're too busy, with services including pet sitting with overnight stays (GP is a member of Pet Sitters International, "Professional Pet Sitting Excellence Through Education").

Okay, providing that kind of care is probably normal. But Golden Paw also coordinates pet field trips to parks "for health and socialization," shopping for pet groceries, pet spa treatments and massages, health care and "stylists" from the Valley's "top" vets and pet groomers, personal shopping at pet boutiques, pet travel arrangements, pet videos and, of course, pet birthday party planning.

It's no surprise that this service focuses on the high-dollar areas of Paradise Valley, Gainey Ranch, north Scottsdale, the Biltmore and Arcadia. It is surprising that to contract their attentions, we and our pet have to undergo an interview. Hey, if it really is a dog's life, we want to be our dog.

Whether you're a real vaquero or just want to look like one, De Leon in Guadalupe can outfit you from head to toe, and there's no item more important than the perfect pair of boots. De Leon has a whole wall of boots in different skins, colors, and degrees of embroidery. De Leon also provides plastic shopping bags so there's no need to tug your shiny red armadillo-skinned boots over your socks; just slip your foot into the bag, then into the boot. Once you've picked the right boots, De Leon also has a mountain of cowboy hats in different shapes and sizes, goat foot key chains, machetes, holsters, whips, milagros, and great big shiny belt buckles, including one as big as a pancake with a large marijuana leaf and "Sinaloa" in crusty gold letters ($29).

M & Co. Papery is proof that the art of correspondence has not been lost in the computer age.

Sure, e-mail is quick and cheap, but hard to adorn with just the right illustration, and impossible to emboss. This small shop is packed with cards, notes and paper for any occasion, from barbecue to baby shower, and party accouterment from birthday candles to cocktail napkins. You can fill out your own invitations, or custom-order them from a huge selection. Every piece of merchandise seems hand-chosen, with wit and whimsy. Even a tiny enclosure card is a piece of art, edged with glitter and a drawing of a perfect bride.

Beware: We walked out with way more than we planned to. And with a lot of plans, suddenly. We'll be throwing a garden party sometime soon (couldn't resist the invites) and now have dozens of people to thank with just the right card.

Thanks to you, M & Co.!

And the cheese stands alone. The locally owned Root Seller Gallery is the lone queso in this instance, and the only gay bookstore left in the Valley. An active participant in the gay community, Root Seller has been the place to find books by gay authors for the past year and a half. Venture upstairs and you will find books on erotica, how to acclimate your child to your gay relationship, and bios on gay icons like Princess Di, Lucy, and James Dean. There is also a wide variety of magazines, gay art and cards to choose from. Root Seller Gallery has "everything under the rainbow."

Department store racks have been overflowing with Asian-inspired clothes lately -- Mandarin collars, delicate, exotic prints and intricate ornamentation. But it's so much more satisfying to get the goods straight from the source. Short of a trip to China, Oriental Factory Direct is the Valley's best spot to seek out authentic Chinese apparel, at a fraction of the cost of designer interpretations. Get glam à la Suzie Wong with a classic, form-fitting satin cheongsam (the traditional sheath dress with a high collar and side slits), or swaddle yourself in a boxy Mao jacket, then accessorize with flat Mary Jane-style slippers and a colorful embroidered bag.

This den of metaphysical books and gifts boasts more star power than a Beverly Hills AA meeting. In addition to teaching classes on psychic development, tarot, reiki and feng shui, the store's resident astrologers/mediums/hypnotherapists/ministers guide clients through astrology charts, hypnotherapy sessions and past-life regressions; snap aura photographs; and perform weddings and handfastings. Psychic, tarot and medium services range from forensic astrology readings, which aim to solve crimes and locate missing persons, to asteroid chart readings, which employ no fewer than 8,956 asteroids to confirm past lives and uncover life themes "via mythology of the gods/goddesses." Looking for love in all the wrong places? A locational reading will tell you where to go -- for success in romance and the workplace, that is. "Sign" us up.

We're hoping something goes wrong with our old flivver soon just so we have an excuse to visit the waiting room at Chester's Garage. This is not your average repair shop. The owners specialize in restoration and repair of antique cars, even carrying Model A parts in stock.

But what makes us notice Chester's is the picture window facing Seventh Avenue that encases an amazing collection of 10 or so antique cars in a makeshift museum, some dating to the late 1910s. Chester's works on modern cars, too, and has been in business for 32 years. While your car is being fixed, you can replace the usual perusal of last month's Sports Illustrated with a waltz around some amazing pieces of automotive history.

Readers' Choice for Best Place to Get Your Oil Changed: Jiffy Lube

Ask any of the designers from the local fashion community where they prefer to spend their precious time (and money) away from the sewing machine. Chances are, it's SAS, a beloved Valley destination for creative, crafty types. If you've never stepped inside this material world, then it must seem strange that style hounds would bond over a shop crammed from floor to ceiling with bolts of fabrics. It's the same thing that sucks artists into art supply stores: SAS has the ingredients to make a project happen, no matter how far-out the idea. Looking for hot pink lamé, sparkly black vinyl or cheetah pattern fake fur? This is the place to come. And there are countless varieties of buttons, trims, ribbons and patches. Even if you don't show up here with a specific idea in mind, you'll have plenty when you leave.

602-255-0212 If you love vintage, but can't afford the high prices of the shops in Scottsdale and don't feel like sorting through endless rows of sweatpants at the thrift store, we suggest the Antique Market. A huge store taking up most of the corner at Seventh Avenue and McDowell, Antique Market is open seven days a week, and is stuffed to the ceiling with trinkets of yesteryear.

Whether your passion is clothes, knickknacks, furniture or kitsch, there is some of everything. You can walk in wanting a matching set of nine handkerchiefs and actually find what you're looking for. The merchandise is arranged in small nooks all over the store, so you can browse for hours without being in anyone's way.

From the turn of the century, to "vintage" from the last decade, it's all there. A few of our favorites are the collection of 1950s aprons, the clothing racks, and overflowing cases of every type of jewelry. The prices are very reasonable, and we doubt you can find a better selection anywhere in the Valley.

The heck with sightseeing! When we're out of town, wherever we happen to be, we always drop in at Borders Books & Music to check out the remainder table. That's because this chain always offers the best recently-out-of-print hardcovers and remaindered books on its bargain tables, which are wisely scattered throughout its large stores.

But our all-time favorite remainder table is the one at Borders' Biltmore store on East Camelback. Don't ask us to meet you for lunch anywhere near this particular bookshop if you mind that we'll arrive late, dragging along a bagful of cool finds. Just last week we scored a leather-bound Martin Chuzzlewit, a pop-up Book of Job, and a first-edition hardcover of John Irving's last novel, the version with the alternate cover art. Yeah, okay. So we're word nerds. And as long as Borders keeps plying us with gorgeous page-turners at rock-bottom prices, we'll stay that way.

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