It's good to have a friend, but when that friend has a wet nose and a waggy tail, well, that's the ultimate in unconditional love. Plenty of studies have shown that pet visitation programs work: When pets visit seniors, convalescents or kids in hospitals, everyone seems to perk up. The nonprofit/volunteer Alliance of Best Friends screens and trains people and their pets before sending them out to spread fur and joy; all it gets in return are enough smiles to light up the entire city for a month.

You've heard the grisly tales about pets who died while having their teeth cleaned, victims of anesthesia. And then there are the ones who fall ill because they didn't have their teeth cleaned. It's an ugly bind, especially if your best friend is getting on in years, but Pet World tenders a happy medium by offering monthly sans-gas dental clinics for stinky-breathed dogs and cats, provided by trained hygienists from a California outfit specializing in anesthesia-free dental treatment, all at a reasonable price. Sweet gums, my Prince.
It's 3 a.m., the neighbor's obnoxious Chihuahua won't stop barking, there's a party going on down the street, and you can't stop thinking about your job presentation tomorrow. At times like these, only one thing will help: Walgreen's 24-hour pharmacy. Not every Walgreen's has one, but if you need your sleeping pills badly enough, or any other drugs you happen to have a prescription for, it's worth the effort to find one that does. The staff is friendly and helpful, not that it matters: Anyone looks friendly and helpful when they hand you that little plastic bottle of magic medicine in the middle of a heinous night.

Readers' choice: 7-Eleven

Seven out of every ten sick, injured and orphaned critters that limp into Jack and Penny Murphy's nonprofit animal-rescue center walk out again. As a result, this husband-and-wife team -- also known as Coon Papa and Bat Lady -- are sought out by veterinarians, animal-control officers, police and homeowners statewide. For the past ten years, they've rescued and rehabilitated everything from bats to raccoons, coyotes, foxes, squirrels and practically anything else that slithers, flaps or crawls. He got his nickname for his kinship with raccoons and she got hers for her kinship with the flying mammals. From an impossibly cluttered home in Aurora, Jack and Penny have shown that there are more humane ways of handling wild creatures than traps, gas chambers and trips to the pound. The couple nurtures the animals back to health and releases them into the wild. And if you need help getting squirrels from your attic, they can do that, too. Just tune the radio to Rush Limbaugh, Jack says. "That clears the room real quick."

Readers' choice: 911

Ever wonder why it's so hard to keep grass green in Denver? Erratic weather, freezing winters, burning summers, high winds, bad soil and a miniscule amount of rainfall may have something to do with it. Enter Xeriscape, a word that was invented and trademarked by the Denver Water Department in 1981 to help frustrated Denver gardeners save water and keep the areas around their homes lovely without having to fight Colorado's naturally dry climate. The key is to let go of the American ideal of a green lawn. Just try it for a moment: It's not easy, but it helps to have some direction, which is why the folks at the water department run a series of seminars in the late winter and early spring to teach people the principles of Xeriscaping and give them ideas of what to plant and how to landscape. They also have a ton of free pamphlets and other information, a hotline and a demonstration garden located at department headquarters. And if they sometimes sound a little defensive, it's hard to blame them. Many people have the wrong idea about Xeriscape. "[It] is NOT ugly, brown, rocks and cactus. A properly-designed Xeriscape is lush, colorful and easy to care for," according to departmental information. "It's good to bring attention to the fact that we basically live in a semi-arid desert," adds Liz Gardener, conservation manager for the water department. "Especially this year. We've been lucky for the last decade, but I don't think it's going to stay like that."

And, yes, that is her real last name. Gardener says that after a divorce, she didn't want to keep her married name and she didn't want to take back her old name, so she chose a new one. "I asked myself, 'What makes sense for me?' I love to plant seeds of thought in people's minds almost as much as I like to plant seeds in my garden," she says, "so it's perfect." And "Xeriscape" just didn't work -- as a last name, that is.

Readers' choice: 16th Street Mall shuttle service

Once you graduate from the Denver Water Department's free seminars, how about its Xeriscape handbooks? These will set you back a few bucks, but the series gives all the skinny -- rootstock and barrel -- on how to conserve water and still have a beautiful yard. Four books -- Xeriscape Plant Guide, Xeriscape Color Guide, Xeriscape Handbook and Waterwise Landscaping With Trees, Shrubs and Vines -- cover just about everything, from what to plant to how to plant and maintain it; there's also a video on how to convert a grass lawn to a Xeriscape garden. Quit doing a rain dance and just get smart -- all you need is the right equipment.

You always want to try new places, but Echter's is the place you keep coming back to, and here's why: There are acres of merchandise, from birdhouses and gifty gewgaws on one end to an endless selection of trees, shrubs, perennials, landscaping materials and more on the other end. And in between, they've got every kind of tool or gardening supply you could ever hope for, an array of the prettiest pansies around town, annuals galore, unusual herbs and fragrant lavenders, Rocky Mountain columbine and zillions of roses (from the picky teas to the hearty shrub varieties), and everything else that grows from the ground. Add in the efficient service, a kids' play area and the park with a lake across the street, and you'll never want to go anywhere else.

Groundcovers Greenhouse is relatively small, tidy and well-stocked -- the perfect place to pick up a few broccoli seedlings or yellow pear tomato plants or a quick packet of regionally friendly vegetable seeds. Offering a good selection of annuals and perennials, and with at least one knowledgeable staff member always roaming to answer questions, Groundcovers also sports a particularly serendipitous selection of the garden ornaments, decorative pots and trellises that make gardening less of a chore and a whole lot more fun.

Tiny and uncompromisingly lovely on the corner of Gaylord and Tennessee (where it hangs out engagingly like a private backyard retreat), the Potted Garden is the place to pick up elegant baskets of bleeding hearts to hang from your eaves, or large, well-established container-grown tomatoes, or a four-pack of snapdragons, or even a $200 designer birdhouse, the kind of splurge you never expected but suddenly can't live without. Or you can just go there for a quick fix of spiritual floriation on your way to eat sushi or seafood down the street.

Brown Palace Hotel Tea Room
There are usually a couple of cabs lingering in front of this Denver landmark, but if not, the Brown Palace hotel doorman will almost always help you get one if you're stuck downtown. Just don't be rude: Doormen can get a little ornery when an obnoxious drunk who isn't a hotel guest starts demanding service. The nice thing is that when the upscale Brown Palace calls for a cab, it'll show up long before it would at whatever dive you were really drinking in.

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