Pugs in Public

During the hottest days of summer (when every day is not just Halloween but a dog day as well), The Bitch tries to move only from the Barkalounger to the tile to cool off, but sometimes the sun-sensitive sighthound dashes over to Nordstrom at the Village of Merrick Park in Coral Gables.

The Bitch notes the presence of many four-footed shoppers at the upscale department store, and it's no mistake to think canines minor and major are treated like stars at the Seattle-based emporium.

"We don't have a lot of policies in general, and so we don't really have a pet policy. We do allow dogs in our stores, and we find it's more frequent in our stores at outdoor malls or a lifestyle center. For the most part we want shopping to be as enjoyable as possible, but also safe. We ask our customers and employees to use good judgment, and we do ask customers to keep pets clear of our café," says Deniz Anders, national spokeswoman for Nordstrom.

Perfect for inaugurations or tea at the Biltmore
Jonathan Postal
Perfect for inaugurations or tea at the Biltmore

But the rules of Havanese hospitality are not so clearly defined elsewhere. Cindy Ross, a hairstylist at Echelon in Miami Beach, recently acquired a second full-time job as the human assistant to Cella, a Maltese whom Ross insists on following everywhere. What Ross has noticed is there seems to be no consistency regarding rules about dogs in places of business, from retail stores to restaurants. Some places she and Cella are welcome, others she's told "the law" forbids dogs on the premises. Ross sought advice from The Bitch about whether there was some sort of Magna Carta governing spaniels in society. Are there county health department regulations about dachshunds and dining establishments? Terriers in toy stores? Lhasa apsos in libraries? Are there city laws here and there that allow or disallow dingoes in certain kinds of places? With so many pugs in public, especially on South Beach but elsewhere as well, many dogs are wondering what their rights are.

The Bitch began her investigation on Lincoln Road, the local epicenter of canine and human pedestrian activity. Mirian Watson at Soprano Café says, "Everybody in South Beach that doesn't have a kid has a dog. We don't let them in, but they can sit outside."

Diana Curbo of American Apparel could not contain her excitement at the opportunity to help The Bitch go from Gothic greyhound to a more South Beach Samoyed look. "We love dogs here! Come on, we have pictures." Curbo proffered a rack of cotton canine shirts, accompanied by a display of Polaroid photos featuring various small dogs wearing them. Curbo points out one of a preppy Chihuahua: "This is Picasso. He's our mascot. He belongs to a girl who works here, and whenever she works, she brings him into the store. Employees are allowed to bring their dogs to work if they're not too big."

Kendall Spiegal at Brownes & Co. Apothecary says, "In South Beach every other person has a little dog. State law says they are not allowed in the spa upstairs, but they can come into the store." The store offers dog shampoo, Harry Barker squeeze bones, and a vast selection of scented sprays for pooches who want to "musk up" à la Will Ferrell in Anchorman.

At Dog Bar, a number of French-pedicured women are deployed to circulate the store carrying large square bags, each bearing its own furry inhabitant. Lucy Lu, a Pomeranian peering from a leopard-print tote, shops with her servant Trixia Angel. Lucy's fur is carefully styled with small pink barrettes. Angel: "I've had Lucy one year. I take her everywhere. The only place she doesn't go is the gym. We're having a dog party at the park in Coconut Grove by Monty's this weekend. It's a birthday party for her and my sister's dog and another little dog. I'm here to buy a present for my sister's dog."

As for having trouble taking Lucy around, Angel adds, "Everywhere around here is okay with it as long as you are sitting outside. Except for the Cheesecake Factory. It's mean! They don't even allow them outside." In a small pink tulle dress and a tutu, Lucy Lu upstaged The Bitch. "Look at you, Lucy!" Angel coos. "This is going to be your party dress this weekend!"

Another Dog Bar patron, Marta Coton, cruises the store with her Yorkie, B.G. (short for Baby Girl), sticking out of an enormous banana-yellow tote. "Whenever I cross the bridge, I bring her with me," says Coton. "Here it's very nice; in the city I have more problems. There's not as much outdoor seating in the city, and they don't allow pets inside. If she's sticking out of her bag, they'll ask you to leave."

Dog Bar owner Steven Cohen advises, "If you smuggle your dog in correctly in a great Dog Bar bag, no one will know."

The Bitch figured Epicure, the intimidating fooderie at Alton near Lincoln, would be the Dunkirk of dog egress, but she managed to snag a cannoli from the bakery with little difficulty, even though Epicure's management wouldn't offer official comment on its dog-access policy.

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