When a puppy dog looks up at you from inside its cage with, well, those puppy dog eyes, it’s saying “Take me home with you.” What it’s not saying, but should be, is “Between my painful and chronic skin allergy, my family history of renal failure, and that infected front paw that will eventually require surgery, owning me will ensure that you can’t afford to send your real kids to college.” But pets are family, too, and despite the often-hefty price tag, they deserve quality treatment. Fortunately, there are less expensive vets out there that actually know how to treat your pets properly. Dr. Davidson, the charming and incredibly compassionate man behind Value Vet on Westwood Boulevard, is exactly who you’re looking for. He’s British (which always makes a doc sound smarter) and can occasionally look a bit unkempt, but won’t beat around the bush and will never try to push anything on you that isn’t necessary for your animal’s health. He also seriously knows his stuff. He doesn’t take appointments, and there can sometimes be a long wait, but it’s worth it. 1278 Westwood Blvd., L.A. (310) 446-3908.
Best THRIFT HUNT
Ever wonder where all those hipsters find their broken-in cowboy boots and embroidered ’70s mini dresses? This city is known for its thrift-store abundance, but at so many shops the only really good stuff is on display in the windows and lacking on the racks. It’s different at Squaresville, where the best stuff is inside, although you have to work a bit to find it. If you do some careful perusing, you’ll spot all kinds of hidden finds lurking in crowded corners like $45 vintage Frye boots, a $20 vintage suede floppy hat, a party dress for $12. The goods are much cheaper than other picked-over shops that seem stuck with their not-cool-anymore stock. If the best part of being a bargain hunter is the thrill of the hunt, Squaresville makes for a fun and inexpensive way to spend a Saturday afternoon. And because the shop is so generous with their buy-backs — and, well, times is hard — you can often make a killing. 1800 Vermont Ave. (at Franklin Ave.), Los Feliz. (323) 669-8464.
BEST CONTEMPORARY MUSEUM OF HATS
Most hat stores carry dozens of different styles and brands. Kangol Venice features dozens of different styles and one brand — one dozen dozen styles, in fact, of Kangol in all of its many-splendored variations: berets and Mau caps, trilbys and pull-ons, baseball caps and visors, knit and straw, sun and rain. All in all, some 150 colorful hats fill the small white charming house on Abbot Kinney, which includes a kids’ room, and feels like a contemporary museum of hats. One of very few Kangol outlets (there is a store in New York, and one in London), the Venice outlet is a great place to stop into for a look around, even if you don’t buy. But not buying is hard work here, with so many great looks — and prices, which range from $25 to $60. 1132 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice. (310) 399-8444, kangolstore.com.
BEST CHEAP BIRTHDAY-PARTY STORE
I threw my kid a birthday party for 20 bucks. And I got it all at the 99¢ Only Stores. What kid is not going to be thrilled to be given their own can of shaving cream and told to, “Knock yourself out!” And if that mess is not enough, what could be better then exploding sand volcanoes with baking soda, vinegar and food dye? Juice boxes, party decorations, candy and small toys for party favors can all be found in these aisles, and at these prices, who cares if your child wants to give every kid he invites not one, but three ring pops and fun dip and giant glow sticks. So your deck may end up smelling like a gay bathhouse, but it’s soap, people, and it washes out of their eyes. (Oh, and they sell goggles there too, if you are really worried.) Citywide.
BEST MAIN SQUEEZE
Need to learn the difference between a Titano and a Weltmeister? Looking for the best place to get your polka on? Dave’s Accordion School & Caballero Dance is the unofficial epicenter for all things accordion. Owner Dave Caballero has sold, repaired and taught the instrument since 1971, the same year he met his wife Veronika, a German immigrant. Veronika added violin lessons and dance lessons in the 1980s, but the store’s heart is the squeeze box. From the doors and windows, the sounds of oom-pah-pahs evoke images of German beer gardens or the slow sweeping solitude of buskers on Italian street corners. Whether he’s equipping Weird Al Yankovic or Danny Elfman, Caballero pushes the limits of polkafication and brings the soul of the accordion to life. 3058 Glendale Blvd., Atwater Village. (323) 663-1907, davesaccordion.com.