July 23, 2006 – When Stacy Cohen arrived on St. Thomas during a cruise in 2003, she went looking around for something to bring home to her one-year-old French bulldog Monte. Alas, she could find no pet shops downtown – nothing for Monte.
The situation was still bothering her when she went back to New York to her job as an attorney for a not for profit. Just how does one handle coming home empty-handed to the beseeching gaze of one's pet?
Cohen did the obvious, and now How 'Bout Your Pet? more than takes care of that problem and much more. Comfortably tucked in International Plaza, the pet boutique, which she opened in September 2003, has become the social center for the island's pampered canine elite. The dogs have social events just for themselves, eat such treats as doggie burgers and generally have a grand time.
Cohen couldn't be happier. "This is what I want to do," she says smiling, while ministering to the needs of many customers in the small shop. She says she doesn't miss lawyering at all. "Manhattan is too busy."
Monte and his pal, a local French-English bulldog mix named Willis, guard the small shop's front entrance , more often than not attired in some of the shop's smart doggie attire.
Guard isn't really the right word. They sprawl outside the shop as visitors stop and play with them, attention they take in stride. Both dogs have more than a bit of the ham in them.
As it turns out, a large market for the doggie accessory trade are grandparents, determined to dress up their "grand-dogs."
Attorney Arthur Pomerantz and his wife, Barbara, were such shoppers on Saturday. Their daughter's yellow Lab, Duncan, was going to have a birthday party. "Here," Barbara said, "look at this pink picture frame, it's great." That was just the beginning. The Pomerantzes picked up a smart-looking scarf, a photo album, the picture frame and several bags of doggie treats.
They weren't alone. Grandparents from Texas wanted something for their daughter's unique pet, a Coton de Tulear. "They're from Madagascar," Judy Chamberlin says, displaying a fluffy, white sort of thing on her cell camera. "He's very hyper, so they call him Zac, after Prozac," Chamberlain says while selecting a doggie T-shirt proclaiming "All they brought me was this lousy T-shirt" for the Madagascar pup.
The shop is stuffed with merchandise, no corner neglected. Stuffed animals, interactive toys, sport team jackets, island wear, bowls, pet carriers, comfortable pet bedding, pet jewelry, and dog- and cat-themed jewelry.
Cohen plays with Willis while taking care of business. "You're so handsome," she tells Willis. "He's just about 14 months old now," she says. Monte is four. He's not here today – I wish you could meet him, too." Reflecting on all the activity, Cohen says, "You have to love to do this, and I do – I'm a bit quirky."
She has turned those quirks to good use, with a virtual social calendar for pups of all ages.
Along with the next door café, Giggling Gecko, Cohen started her social calendar this year last week with a Puppytini Happy Hour, which included health tips from local veterinarian Dr. Stewart Tripp of Imperial Animal Hospital. "It was wonderful – loads of people and pets," she says.
Next on the agenda is Sunday's Pet Socialization Pirate Brunch, which will be followed on successive Sundays by a Fiesta brunch, a Luau brunch, and on Aug. 13 a Putting on the Glitz brunch. Aug. 9 will feature training tips from Debbie of Debbie's Dedicated Dogs. The brunches start at 10 a.m., and the Happy Hour's at 5:30 p.m.
"It's such a great way for animal owners to get to know each other," Cohen says. "And for the puppies. Lots of times they are single families, so this way they get to play with each other.''
Cohen is looking forward to the Humane Society's Barktoberfest this year. She is a bit miffed at last year's results. "We didn't win anything last year, and Willis made the front page of the Daily News, but no prize. This will be our year."
Sunday's brunch was a big hit – a woof, a hoot. Absolutely anybody who was anybody in doggie circles was there: from Coco, a five-year-old chocolate Lab to a somewhat overgrown Chihuahua mix in a pair of faded overalls to Mary Gleason's very social toy poodle, Scampy, and a rambunctious four-month-old German Shepherd, Asa, who was getting fitted for a Rhinestone collar.
But a 1.9-pound male Pug, about the size of an overgrown gerbil, was star of the show. The pint-sized beige puppy, with its black nose and big black eyes, was just hand delivered Saturday to Jessica Meil, Cohen's assistant. Cohen's brother and sister-in-law had brought the pup down from Florida, where Meil had handpicked him from photos.
Meil was a typical new mother. "He's so wiggly and so soft," she says caressing him.
And how about a name? "I just don't know yet. It will come." She says the breed originally came from China, "and some say the Queen of England favors Pugs," she says, decidedly unimpressed. It doesn't look like he'll be named King Phillip or Mao. "Maybe Pica for Picasso," she muses.
In the meantime, the baby is holding his own, romping around the mall arcade with his sort-of older brother, Willis.
The dogs had a play yard to themselves in the arcade blocked off with boxes. They gorged themselves on ice cream cones, muffins and burgers with fries — all available on Cohen's doggie menu. She points out the ingredients, all healthy and no sugar.
A wall at the back of the shop is covered with photos of St. Thomian pets. For a look at some of the shop's favorites, visit the store's Web site. For more information, call Cohen at 340-777-1130.
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