Canines Dressed to the Nines

by Reema Abi-Akar

Local owners pamper their pets with personalized outfits, exclusive diets and elaborate parties.

Most dogs are content with a bowl of food and a lot of love. What some owners actually give them, however, can be considerably more. Paris Hilton has spoiled her dogs with a luxurious, specially-designed doghouse, while the celebrity Pomeranian pup Boo has more than seven million likes on his Facebook page, which shows off his extensive wardrobe. And it’s not just celebrities—“regular people” cater dotingly to their pets’ needs as well. In central Illinois, a number of specialty stores help dog owners pamper their animal friends to their hearts’ desires.

Clothes-Minded Pets
Though it’s socially acceptable for dogs to go out in the nude, today’s most fashionable canines are sporting elegant collars, frilly bows and tailored garments. Lindsey Reck, owner of Pooch Couture in Junction City, stocks plenty of doggie outfits and accessories. “The designer collars are pretty popular,” she says. “There are all sorts of different colors, and there’s rhinestones, some without rhinestones. Some, you can personalize with the dog’s name. The clothes are always popular for the little dogs.”

Area resident Kristie Gearhart enjoys gussying up her two-year-old miniature dachshund, Wrigley. “We dress her up for special occasions like Christmas, Halloween, her birthday. If we go visit family… we put a cute shirt on her.” Though Wrigley isn’t always keen on getting dressed up, Gearhart says, she puts up with it long enough for a few photos.

Linda Negley, another local dog lover, orders bows exclusively from a favorite designer on the west coast. She has two small dogs: Zoey, a Yorkipoo (cross between a Yorkshire terrier and a poodle) and Daisy, a Yochon (a Yorkie/Bichon Frise mix). “All Zoey’s bows come from California. There’s a lady that makes dog bows, and she’s even made special bows just for [her]!” Negley said. “[Zoey] never leaves the house without a bow!” Negley also owns a doggie stroller—so Zoey and Daisy can enjoy the outdoors even in the dog days of summer—while a heated car seat keeps them warm in the frigid winter months.

Belle Mie owner Jade Venovich loves her two Yorkshire terriers, Pablo and Picasso, so much she even had them in her wedding, complete with mini-bride-and-groom outfits. “Her dress was an exact replica of my own wedding dress!” she exclaims.

Going the Extra Mile
Pets living the high life often get their own birthday parties and celebrations, and Pooch Couture has seen its share of doggie soirées and play dates. “We can work with the customer—whatever they want—special treats for the dogs [and] the guests… We can order birthday hats, party supplies,” Reck explains. “We’ve had special spa days for the dogs. They can get mud baths, and the owner can choose the scented shampoo if they want. There’s nail polish; there’s hair gel.”

What’s a party without cake? My Dog’s Bakery in Peoria’s Metro Centre serves up canine-friendly birthday cakes and homemade treats that even humans can enjoy. “We use cranberries, we use sweet potatoes, we use pumpkin and carrots,” describes owner Vicky Gardner. “We actually use carob to make like a ‘chocolate chip cookie’… because that’s safe for dogs… We’re trying to make things more natural and put the antioxidants back in the dogs through the treats they love.”

In addition to baked goods, some owners prefer natural, grain-free food for their pooches’ everyday meals. Venovich takes it a step further. “[My dogs] eat kibbles in the morning, and then I home-make their dog food for the night,” she explains. “They eat green beans [and] carrots that are food-processed with ground chicken. I put in seaweed calcium, then an egg and brown rice, and then I bake it into a meatloaf.”

Between meals, pet owners try to spend as much time as possible with their beloved pups, and if they can, some even bring them to work. In fact, Reck, Gardner, Negley and Venovich all enjoy taking their dogs to work with them, which keeps their furry friends from getting lonely at home. Nationally, pet owners can introduce Fido to their coworkers on Take Your Dog to Work Day, which took place earlier this year on June 21st. For those who can’t bring their pups to the office, My Dog’s Bakery and other businesses offer doggie daycare, where your pet can get some exercise and socialize with other dogs.

Part of the Family
For many, their pets are full-fledged members of the family. “I did not grow up with a dog or a cat,” Gearhart recalls. “However, my husband grew up [with]… horses, peacocks, goats, chickens, dogs, cats… When we got married, it was weird not to have an animal in the house.” When Gearhart and her husband brought home Wrigley as a puppy, she promptly fell in love. “I don’t even look at her as a dog; I look at her as being my kid.”

“I don’t have any real kids, so she’s my kid,” agrees Reck, whose small Yorkshire terrier is named Macy. As far as pampering goes, “there’s no limit,” she adds. “I really think that dogs are part of the family, and you can spoil them however you want to spoil them.”

On the other hand, Negley’s son is grown up and has moved out of the house. Several years ago, she received Daisy, her first of two dogs, as a birthday gift from her husband. “You want to nurture something,” she explains. “You want to still take care of somebody.”

There seems to be no end to the lengths some will go to indulge their pets in the finer things of life. Whether dressing them up in rhinestone-studded outfits, throwing extravagant birthday celebrations, or just taking them to doggie daycare once in a while, they’re simply looking to give their pets a happy, full life as part of the family. a&s

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