Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Ruff it? As if!

Dogs, cats spa-cial in Beverly Hills, dahling

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Janene Zakrajsek feeds a guest a gourmet meal.


Janene Zakrajsek feeds a guest a gourmet meal.

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- It's just another spa day in the 90210. A valet parks the car, then it's off for a facial, manicure and shopping for couture fashions. The reward for a long day of pampering: a raw meat treat. The pets of tony Beverly Hills enjoy the good life as much as their owners.

In the home of all things high-end, these posh pooches and cats are as polished, poised and well-groomed as the city's glitterati. The indulgent atmosphere of the Pussy & Pooch Pet Lifestyle Center plays into the trend of over-the-top pet pampering that's become a way of life for many animal lovers.

The Beverly Hills centre, the newest of four locations, opened in December and markets itself as a lifestyle hub, complete with a holistic vet and wellness spa, animal trainer, grooming salon, bakery and meat market, training lab, social club, retail outlets and showroom. There are dozens of five-star pet resorts and spas across the country providing similar services, but P&P has one thing they don't: location. And few others have the name-brand shops, private viewing, meat market and cafe.

"It looks the part. They look Beverly Hills. They look upscale. They look elegant. They look very well put together. It's a beautiful space to walk into," said Alex Stettinski, executive director of the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce.

The one thing missing at P&P that most hotels and pet resorts offer is overnight boarding -- but in Beverly Hills, many residents have staff to handle pet care when they're away.

The two-storey, 12,000-square-foot centre is built around the Pawbar Cafe, a three-station, pet-level dining area where dogs and cats get a choice of raw-meat meals, simmered stews or freshly prepared bowls from The Honest Kitchen.

There are also areas for people to watch or wait.

"The store exists primarily for the pet but is designed to be an experience for the human," co-founder Janene Zakrajsek said.

The expense for all this pet extravagance varies. It's difficult to compare grooming prices because they fluctuate so much nationally. P&P charges by breed. Baths run from $35 for a Chihuahua to $95 for a Mastiff; haircuts run from $55 for a Chihuahua to $125 for an old English sheepdog.

Beau Levinson of Beverly Hills said it felt like she had new dogs two weeks after enrolling Olive and Barron in P&P's social club, using the grooming services and buying new harnesses.

Olive stopped eating out of her bowl a year ago when she brought Barron home. P&P animal trainer Kirstin McMillan solved Levinson's problem during their initial evaluation, telling Levinson to feed them in separate rooms.

"I am so happy because I don't have to pick food off the floor all the time," she said.

At the centre, retailers Jax & Bones, LuxeMutt, EzyDog, Sleepypod and hauspanther each displays their lines in what's called a pop-up shop. For instance, Jax & Bones shows a few examples of its lounge beds ($120-$240 depending on size) and displays fabric swatches for the rest.

Diamonds in the Ruff Ruff shows off in the private Champagne Room, where the most expensive item is a one-of-a-kind $3,000 handmade canopy bed. There are hundreds of other retailers.

"Everything in here has a story," Zakrajsek said. For example, Mootugs from Moochews is a sturdy dog-tugging toy made from cow-milking machine parts once used on Minnesota dairy farms. It's said they still contain the "essence of bovine," she said.

P&P started simply enough. Boy (Rob Gaudio) meets girl (Zakrajsek). He likes dogs, she likes cats. His dog Cosmo escapes repeatedly from his collar, so they start a search for the perfect harness.

After boy marries girl, they open their first store in Los Angeles, catering to the apartment, condo and loft-living lifestyle. Two in similar areas of Long Beach follow.

Comic book writer Scott Lobdell fits P&P's customer profile to a T -- he lives with his girlfriend and three dogs in a loft overlooking P&P's downtown Los Angeles store.

"You have these young professionals living in cities in close quarters with animals and the need to get out of the house," said Maureen Costello, owner and president of distributor United Pacific Pet in Fontana.

"Their background (Gaudio and Zakrajsek) helped them figure this out. They are trendy and fashion-conscious. They are catering to their own lifestyle," Costello said.

All the while, Zakrajsek kept track of services she'd add, innovations she'd make and flashier ways to treat the whole pet. In Beverly Hills, she made room for it all, even a caterium, a Plexiglas cat house with a sky bridge.

Soon there will be "Set Ready" classes. Pets will be trained and ready to work on movie or television sets.

"Doesn't mean anybody will get called, but this is Beverly Hills," Zakrajsek said.


-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 21, 2014 D5

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