Puppy Love

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Dropping $6,000 on a designer wardrobe . . . for a dog? That’s nothing for these obsessed pet owners. A look at pint-sized pooches and the women who love them.

The day Ani Hughes adopted her miniature dapple dachshund, she made her first purchase for him: a pup-size Sacramento Kings jersey. That was just the start. Two years and some $6,000 later, Odie’s wardrobe includes shirts for most occasions, pajamas, jean jackets, swim trunks, a yellow rain slicker and a black hooded coat with a fur-trimmed collar.

By dog stroller, puppy pouch or designer tote, the 7-pound Odie goes just about everywhere Hughes does, including to the convalescent home where she works. He boats, and he’s even mastered the treadmill at the gym. It took a little training, but he does walk and run on it now, says Hughes, 26, of Cameron Park. I have to keep him in shape. Wiener dogs can have back problems if they get overweight.

Hughes’ boyfriend has (dachshund) problems of his own. That dog literally knocks me off the bed, says Adam Karelius, a cashier and budding musician. He decides where he wants to lay down. When I look at him, he growls and shows his teeth at me. It’s not cool, man.

Relatives may scoff and friends and co-workers will roll their eyes, but
behind every pampered pooch is a doting owner. She&emdash;these doggy lovers are almost always shes&emdash;will stop at nothing to ensure her dog’s comfort and well-being: periodic pawdicures and aromatherapy massages, home-cooked meals, super chichi Juicy Couture doggy totes and Marilyn Monroe-style gowns.

The dogs are often given names such as Precious or Chiquita, and they commonly come in small or extra-small breeds like Chihuahua and Yorkshire terrier. Their owners routinely set up play dates and large-scale meetups and find no shortage of places to shop for their pets. There has been a definite swing in the market trends toward pampering your dog&emdash;and the [local] services and products available to do this have grown, says Joleen Lonigan, who publishes Sacramento’s Pet Yellow Pages.

Sherry Rossi is doing her part to sustain the trend. My friends think I’m a little nuts, but I don’t care, says Rossi, who lives in Davis. The dog in her life is a Pomeranian that actually belongs to her daughter. Obviously, I have no grandchildren, Rossi said recently as she shopped for Ranger at 4 Paws Pet Boutique in midtown Sacramento.

Because Ranger has a naturally thick coat, Rossi prefers to buy him playthings and collars, not clothes. She bought him a wading pool this summer. And for his first birthday in early July, he received nine&emdash;count ’em, nine&emdash;chew toys.

His eyeballs almost popped out, says Rossi, who works for the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, handily located directly across from 4 Paws. Her daughter surfed the Internet for a dog-friendly recipe and baked Ranger a bone-shaped birthday cake out of whole-wheat flour, honey, organic peanut butter and shredded carrots.

Granted, this was Ranger’s special day, but home cooking is catching on among canine coddlers&emdash;even more so in the aftermath of the Chinese-pet-food recalls earlier this year.

Hughes takes Odie’s diet seriously. She cooks for him regularly, starting the lamb in the skillet, then finishing it off in the oven and serving it with rice. He, in turn, has developed a discerning palate. Odie generally turns up his snout at baked chicken but will readily enjoy it when prepared on the George Foreman Grill. I cook him more meals than I cook for myself, Hughes says.

Sherry Alpers has catered for years to her four Chihuahuas: Stubby, Chiquita, Baby Cakes and Bear. The West Sacramento resident makes them boiled rice, ground turkey, pork and vegetables. Alpers also runs the Sacramento Chihuahua Meetup Group through meetup.com. In addition to organizing play dates and peddling puppy wares, many of the 60 or so members discuss doggy diets.

In a recent online discussion, group members debated the merits of green beans as part of the Chihuahua diet. The upshot: Paris takes her raw beans into her tent to eat them in private; Porter Pruitt and Pixie-Marie spat theirs out at first bite; and Yogi, Jackson and Simone prefer the higher-carb edamame beans. Stay away from carrots, one member wrote; the sugar made her pups a little wiggy.

What happens is that people are starting to look for healthier diets for themselves. That translates to their pets, says Robin Mizell, owner of Bark Avenue Pet Boutique and Bakery, which opened over the summer in El Dorado Hills.

Holistic pet foods have been on the market for the past 20 years but now are de rigueur at many specialty pet shops. They’re made primarily with what Mizell calls human-grade ingredients like meat and fish, not corn or soy filler. Bark Avenue also boasts a black-and-chrome snack bar where peanut butter hearts and other healthful doggy treats sell for $8 per pound.

 

The prices of such foods are higher, but the intestinal pass-through rate is slower. That means that a little bit of food can go a long way. And when it comes out, heaven forbid that the average pooch should have to spend any longer than needed around it. That’s where Jamie Foydl of Sacramento’s Doodie Duty comes in. She has owned the pet poop removal service since 2002, works it full time and has an assistant.

You have someone who mows your lawn, cleans your pool, cleans your house. This is just one less unpleasant chore that you have to worry about, says Foydl, who cleans up weekly after the likes of miniature schnauzers all the way up to Great Danes and Saint Bernards. We do not judge.

Tending to her dog’s hygiene is a pleasure, not a hardship, for Alyson Edgerton of Carmichael. She bathes her year-old Chinese crested three times a week. Ducati, a small, hairless breed with just a spot of fur on his head and tail, is prone to blackheads. Edgerton, a college student, routinely takes him into the tub with her. She starts with a body soap. Then she moves onto the shampoo and conditioner, both usually whatever brand Edgerton is using. A pore-cleansing toner by L’Oral follows, finished up with a light coating of Oil of Olay face lotion.

Her other dog, a 3 1/2-pound brindle Chihuahua named Lexis, gets her own form of TLC on frequent trips to the mall, discreetly tucked into her owner’s Coach bag. Edgerton says she easily spends $200 a month on dog clothes and accessories such as sunglasses. In fact, Lexis’ wardrobe has taken over Edgerton’s dresser, with separate drawers for dresses, sweaters and Halloween costumes. My boyfriend just told me, ‘You love that dog more than me,’ she says.

Other no-less-devoted owners prefer to take their dogs out for grooming. We call it pet styling, explains Erin Selover of Wagger Spa & Market, which opened in North Natomas earlier this year.
Customers can pay to have their dogs washed or use the self spas, stocked with three types of shampoo. The water’s a soothing 89 degrees; the water nozzle has a massage function. Relaxing music is piped in overhead. It’s kind of the equivalent of you going to your stylist. It’s your time, Selover says.

At Wag Hotel, a swanky kennel in West Sacramento, groomers offer aromatherapy massage, blueberry facials and pawdicures. The facility boasts 8-by-10-foot luxury suites with raised beds, wall-mounted TV sets and webcams&emdash;the latter so owners can check in on their four-legged family members from afar. And the linens are washed daily, explains general manager Jessica Stout, so that their guests don’t go home smelling like dogs.

Then there are the parties. The Sacramento Chihuahua group meets yearly at Christmas to exchange doggy gifts and admire the pups’ formal attire, which includes tuxedoes for the males. Clothing certain breeds of small dogs is not just a matter of vanity but of practicality, owners say, given the dogs’ sensitivity to the cold.
Michelle Wall’s Yorkshire terrier, Pixie, is an old hand at being clothed. She actually lifts her arm up, says Wall, who runs the online pet boutique Michi P. (michipet.com) with her mom, Linda. When you put the outfit on, she will give us a paw at a time.

Pixie has outfits for just about every occasion, even something green to wear on St. Patrick’s Day and fancy dress clothes to coordinate with her owner’s. (Wall goes to college in San Diego while her mom looks after the dog in Carmichael.) Pixie does a lot of things that I do, Wall says. She likes to feel pretty. If she doesn’t like the outfit, she’ll let you know.

When Barbara Moestra of Elk Grove adopted a miniature longhaired dachshund nearly a year ago, her co-workers were the ones who threw the party: a surprise shower for Sierra. They decorated their office with balloons and hung signs proclaiming, It’s a girl! The two-legged guests were served dachshund- and pink bone-shaped cookies.

Then came the presents: a princess bed with a pillow, dog toys of every shape and size, even a photo of Moestra and Sierra (whose full name is Sierra Hazel MakaNani) taken by the breeder on adoption day and surreptitiously e-mailed to Moestra’s boss for proper framing.

Sierra loves to kayak, and she wears a stylish orange life vest for safety. In the car, she’s set up on the back seat with a fuzzy blanket, a wiener dog chew toy and a pillow tucked into a pink Winnie-the-Pooh case. When Moestra goes out of town, Sierra’s many aunties vie for the chance to dog sit.

That degree of devotion pays dividends, Moestra believes, and Sierra reciprocates every night when her owner comes home from work. She grabs her toy and comes running. It’s like I’ve been gone for a week, Moestra says. Dogs just love unconditionally . . . I think they’re better than most people.   

Dress Code

Pamper your pooch, but within reason. That’s the word from Val Masters, a dog-behavior specialist and community services director of the Sacramento Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Masters suggests the following:

• Don’t assume that all small dogs will tolerate, let alone enjoy, being dressed up. Dachshunds, for instance, are working dogs from the hound family, Masters notes, and may not be the best candidates for playing dress-up.

• Chihuahuas, Maltese, Yorkshire terriers and other diminutive dogs should be gradually eased into wearing clothes, starting when they’re young and only for a few minutes at a time at first. Reward them with soft treats, such as cheese and hot dogs, to increase their sartorial stamina.

Masters speaks from personal experience: She owns three Chihuahuas and two Staffordshire bull terriers. Sacramento’s summers are too hot for anything besides harness vests for small dogs. But in the cooler months, she has been known to dress her dogs in coats and bandanas.

To me, it’s kind of one of those, ‘If they’re going to get cold and you’re going to put something on them, you might as well make them look good,’ Masters says.&emdash;Jan Ferris Heenan

Doggy Style

Want to dress up your pup in the hottest fashions? Here’s a look at the latest in canine couture.

   

Personalized rhinestone collar, $7 for collar, $1.60 per rhinestone letter

Feather boa from High Maintenance Bitch, $22

Cotton tennis hoodie from Lulu Pink, $35

Satin and tulle Marilyn Monroe gown from The Pink Hotdog, $100, Pearl necklace, $18

Houndstooth dress with velvet belt and flower from Lulu Pink, $35

Pet goggles from Doggles, $18

Rhinestone, sequin and chiffon-flower neck bow from Lulu Pink, $18

Does this shirt make me look fat?  T-shirt harness from Doggie Design, $22

Magnetic-closure faux-diamond earrings from High Maintenance Bitch, $26          
                                              

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