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A Dog-Meet-Dog World at the Shopping Mall

April 03, 2001|BEVERLY BEYETTE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"No, no, we're not buying those," said the woman, pulling her little guy away from an enticing pile of plush toys in a store window. The dachshund obediently retreated and trotted on leash down the mall.

In a shop that sells faux jewels, a bichon frise named Murray chomped contentedly on his bone as his mistress, Teri Weiss, looked over the baubles and beads.

"I take him everywhere I go," said Weiss, and here at Century City Shopping Center, an outdoor mall, Murray is almost universally welcomed.

A Welsh terrier named Vyldie strained at her pink-and-blue floral leash, eager to check out another pooch. Her owner, Debra Mindlin, of Westwood, a social worker for L.A. County, had taken the terrier outside for a bathroom break while helping her mother shop for a special-occasion dress at Macy's.

"We'll be here four or five hours," said Mindlin, but Vyldie wouldn't mind. "She's a therapy dog [trained to visit hospital patients]. She'll tolerate anything."

Dogs are welcome here--so long as they're on leash, said center spokeswoman Victoria Jancek. "It's a lifestyle thing"--take your dog to the mall on weekends. "We're not making an advertising thing of it," she added, but "we've never had a problem."

Likewise, at Fashion Island in Newport Beach, dogs and kids are part of the weekend scene, with major dog-meet-dog action at the koi pond. Spokeswoman Shayne Voorheis said: "There is no policy. Every store is different." Dogs must be on leash and are banned from the Atrium Court indoor eating area.

At Century City, the concept of mall as dog park apparently doesn't thrill everyone. The manager of one store identified by several dog owners as pooch-friendly asked that the store not be named lest hordes of dogs descend, knocking over merchandise displays.

But Abel Corea, manager of Foot Locker, said, "As long as they clean up their mess," dogs and their owners are welcome. "One time, a dog peed in the store," and recently a dog left a calling card at the door. Corea said, "You have to be concerned about other customers," some of whom observed: "They should put Pampers on that dog."

Savvy mall-going canines such as Mozu, a Corgi, and Zoowei, a Corgi-Pekingese mix owned by Kahori Shimizu of Century Park East, have 5-month-old Three Dog Bakery on their radar. There, proprietor Mark Bodnar puts out fresh water and keeps handy a bowl of low-fat yogurt and honey frosting with a spatula for licking for dog patrons.

Rita Berger, a Web site host who lives in Toluca Lake, had stopped by Three Dog Bakery with her Yorkshire terrier, Wesley. "He comes here every weekend," she said. For Wesley--who is allergic to wheat--she was buying wheat-free Pawlines, a rice flour treat resembling a praline.

Cody, a blue-eyed Siberian Husky, had stopped by the bakery with owners Michelle and Steve Jones of West Hollywood. It was a warm afternoon, but Cody, a thick-furred breed, didn't seem to mind. Steve Jones explained, "He's from San Diego and doesn't like it when it goes below 50 [degrees]."

Cody was lapping up the attention of strangers. He's not crowd-shy, said Jones, mentioning that the dog had recently been on CNN. The occasion: A protest outside the Korean embassy by the animal-welfare group Ark Trust, of which Steve Jones is a director, to condemn the Korean practice of eating dogs.

Velvet, a little black and white Papillon, also had stopped by the bakery--but only to sniff around. "She isn't allowed to eat biscuits," explained her owner, Ariel, a Beverly Hills resident who declined to give her last name. "She only eats raw meat." That means no Drooley Dreambars, Pupcakes, Woofle Cones, Terrier Twists, Ciao Wow Pizzas or other treats.

"We love to come here," Ariel said of the mall. She comes to "hang out," not to shop, and to enjoy the outdoors. "It's also a very good place for socializing a puppy." The passing parade included a big black Poodle and a tiny Chihuahua wrapped snugly in a blanket in its owner's arms.

Soon, most of the mall stores would be closing. At Three Dog Bakery, it was Yappy Hour, a daily 5-to-7-p.m. happening during which every dog stopping by gets a pastry bone. Music wafted from the back of the bakery--Elvis was singing "Hound Dog."

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