Best Hospital for Really Sick Critters 2004 | Veterinary Referral Center of Colorado | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
A sick pet can't tell you where it hurts; sometimes it's hard to know whether kitty is entering her ninth life or just suffering from hairballs. The doctors at Veterinary Referral Center of Colorado use pure science to clear up such mysteries of the animal world. At the massive Englewood facility, pets receive better health care than most humans, with specialists in veterinary cancer, heart disease and rehabilitation on call 24 hours a day. A surgical and research hospital, VRCC takes an aggressive stance against disease, using the latest treatments and non-traditional methods like acupuncture; there's even a staff dermatologist. Services aren't cheap, but the center won't bankrupt you with unexpected charges. It's about time modern medicine went to the dogs.

Folks may not worry much about bats in the belfry. Heck, they probably stopped making belfries decades ago. But squirrels in the attic? There's an unwelcome bit of wildlife. Since last June, when Jim Clouse started his Lil Rascals service, fewer of our furry friends have been squatters (or slitherers: he does all wildlife) in homes around the Littleton area. Clouse charges a one-time service fee that includes inspecting the house to see where the secret squirrels are gaining entry. After setting traps, he hauls the unwanted nut-eatin' guests away for a per-critter cost. As he says, "I only want to catch the squirrels that are bothering you, not your neighbors." He also does repairs. Now, if you have elk in the basement...

African Grey is similar to the Denver Zoo's Bird World -- only you can take the store's feathered friends home with you. In addition to its namesake parrot, the shop also sells cockatoos, cockatiels, parakeets and finches. Though it's hard not to go a little bird-brained from all the squawking in the place, the exotic animals make the racket endurable. Just be sure to watch your head. Like the birds at the zoo, some of the winged things are allowed outside their cages.

So your house is under construction, your slumlord won't fix the bathroom leak -- whatever. You just need a hot shower, but at a certain point, you have to stop bumming showers off your friends. For a mere five bucks a day, the 20th Street Recreation Center -- or any of the other 28 Denver Parks and Recreation gyms -- will be there in your time of need. Don't expect the Ritz -- hell, don't expect a Motel 6 -- but the facilities are clean, and admission includes access to the workout facilities. Women even get private shower stalls (sorry, boys). Just don't forget your shower shoes.
For a slightly more luxurious showering experience, splurge on the Flying J. It can be a little intimidating walking through the truckers -- who are laid over in front of the big-screen TV, IM-ing and eBay-ing on the WiFi stations, or simply chain-smoking in the common areas -- but the lot-lizard feeling will pass, especially once you enter your private shower chamber. Just $6.50 buys as much time as you need in the bathroom, along with clean towels. Shower shoes are optional, but your own shampoo and conditioner are a must. Luckily, grooming supplies and a host of other things you didn't know you needed -- including a quick shave or haircut -- can be had just beyond the shower doors. All hail the modern truck stop.

It takes guts to enter the Lake Steam Baths. The 77-year-old Denver institution seems a little, uh, sketchy, squatting on a corner of West Colfax. But the experience is well worth the leap of faith. Ladies come Mondays and Thursdays to steam -- both in a dry hot-rock and eucalyptus sauna -- and whirlpool their tensions away; boys get the rest of the week. After a dip, try a full-body massage, a steal at just $28 an hour, or a mani/pedi. Just be sure to book in advance. And, yes, you've got to get naked.

When it comes to plumbing mishaps, don't bust a pipe: Fix it yourself and save a bundle. Whether you're redoing the loo or merely replacing a rusted shower head, the stuff you need is sure to be cheaper at Do-It-Ur-Self, which offers used and surplus plumbing and heating supplies at ridiculously low prices. Oh, they have new stuff, too, but where's the fun in that? Wander the aisles and you'll find the kinds of antique fittings they just don't make anymore -- or sell at Home Depot. At Do-It-Ur-Self, you'll never have to wash your money down the drain again.

Not too many clip joints have their own art gallery, but Cue Perez's Hairspray is outfitted with large-scale work by local artists in various media, including photography, prints, oil and acrylic. The exhibits change every couple of months and complement the hip, industrial feel of the salon. A cut above, Hairspray elevates the art of beauty.
Clean, well-organized and spacious, Mile High is a bargain hunter's dream. How about a cashmere turtleneck for $1.99? Or maybe that immaculate leather jacket for six bucks? If you're feeling flush, splurge on a Dooney & Bourke handbag for $14.95. There's even a decent selection of books and crockery. Bring cash and your size chart: There are no fitting rooms, and Mile High doesn't take checks or credit cards. But there is an ATM on the premises, and with prices this low, your bank's service charge may be the most expensive transaction of the day.

Best Thrift Store for the Really, Really Thrifty

Goodwill Industries

The conversion of Goodwill Industries' north Denver store to a 99-cent emporium has been a hit with cash-strapped families, seniors and anyone else trying to stretch a buck. Clothes and housewares that may have been passed over at other stores get renewed attention here. With every item beckoning at the bargain price of $.99, it just makes cents.

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