Each year we present a portfolio of Coral Gables dog owners, from all walks of life. What follows are seven portraits, ranging from young retailer Nicolle Mailal in the downtown, to corporate titan Mike Fernandez.
THE DOG: Suma
THE BREED: Victorian Bulldog
THE AGE: One year
THE OWNER: Frank Rosell, StudioBecker
DOG STORY: “We fell in love with her as a puppy and didn’t realize how big she would get,” says Rosell. “At 10 weeks she was 7 pounds. Now she is 70 pounds.” That weight gain has not prevented Suma from home gymnastics, however. “She has these sudden bursts of energy in the middle of the day and runs from one side of the house to the other,” says Rosell. “In full stride she will leap over a couch and clear it. At 70 pounds of sheer muscle, there is nothing you can do to stop her… the kids call it the ‘Zoomies.’”
THE DOG: Sparky
THE BREED: Beagle
THE AGE: One year
THE OWNER: Lauren Dowlen, Lowell International Realty
DOG STORY: Dowlen says she and her husband decided to get a puppy after COVID-19 canceled their plans to vacation in Alaska and California. “This is our first family dog,” Dowlen says, “He was 9-weeks-old when we picked him up. The breeder put him in my arms, and I couldn’t believe the instant connection with this little ball of fur.” Her two sons also instantly bonded. “My 7-year-old promptly made a chores chart, which showed who should do what. Nobody follows it. But there is a lot of wrestling on the floor.” Quirks? “He’ll eat anything… He wants to eat rocks, outside. I don’t understand that at all.”
THE DOG: Lobo
THE BREED: King Shephard
THE AGE: Nine
THE OWNER: Mike Fernandez, Chairman, MBF Healthcare Partners (seen here with wife Constance).
DOG STORY: While two black King Shephards roam the property outside (and sleep outside), the 145-pound Lobo sleeps inside in the master bedroom. He was adopted “as a baby of 9 weeks,” says Fernandez, and has been the baby ever since. “He is truly lovable… even with our grandchildren. As large as he is, he is a big teddy bear.” While he is “gentle” says Fernandez, “there have been times when he has run me over while playing with the other dogs.” Quirks? “When it’s bedtime he needs to find his ‘blanky,’” says Fernandez. “His preference is any clean towel. He will even take them off the rack.”
THE DOG: AJ
THE BREED: Dalmatian mixed
THE AGE: Ten
THE OWNER: Miriam Ramos, Coral Gables, City Attorney
DOG STORY: “One day, while my husband was [loading] our truck, a big dog came running up and looked at him… He was so skinny you could see his ribs. We gave him two packs of hot dogs and he devoured them,” says Ramos. After attempting to find the owner, AJ was adopted. “Back then he was so light he could jump over our [6-foot] fence and run away.” Now heavier, that’s no longer possible. Quirks? “He sleeps in the family room on the leather couch. At about 9:30 he will start to stare at anyone on the couch, like, ‘What are you doing in my spot?’”
THE DOG: (Clockwise from left) Mogli, mixed breed, six. Rupert, Scupper Key rescue, five; Gator, Long-haired Dachshund, 13; Gandalf, Norwich Terrier, four; Oliver, Golden Retriever, two.
THE OWNER: Former City Commissioner Chip Withers, CEO Withers Worldwide
DOG STORY: Four of the dogs “belong” to Withers’ adult children; his dog is Gator. All of them visit several days a week, and always on weekends, obsessed with Withers’ pool. “If you mention the word ‘pool’ that sets them off. If you don’t take them to the pool, forget about it,” says Withers. “The pool is the thing that connects them.” Withers says his dog Gator “holds court. He won’t get mixed in the play, he stands back, but has their respect.” Withers attributes this to herd mentality. “The dog who is closest to the hunter – that’s me – gets the respect. That’s what the dog psychologists say.”
THE DOG: London
THE BREED: French Bulldog
THE AGE: One year
THE OWNER: Nicolle Mailal
DOG STORY: London is the mascot and resident greeter at Oak Apparel and Home, on Valencia, which Mailal runs with cousin Kelly Nelson (left). “She is in the store, every day,” says Mailal. “She thrives on attention. In fact, she demands it.” Mailal says what drives her crazy, besides London’s tendency to jump on every client, is her snoring. “I always said I would never let my dog sleep on my bed,” says Mailal. Having given in, “She is 30 pounds and like a cinder block, and she likes to feel herself against you…. You have to get up in the middle of the night to roll her over.”
THE DOG: Cha-Cha
THE BREED: Miniature poodle
THE AGE: One and a half years
THE OWNER: Ana Navarro, political commentator for CNN, ABC and Tele“I wanted to name her Zsa Zsa after Zsa Zsa Gabor, because this dog is a diva. But my Cuban husband (Al Cardenas) couldn’t get the pronunciation right, so I had to settle for Cha-Cha, the best dancer with the worst reputation at St. Bernadette’s [from Grease],” she says. “She likes to be petted and touched by everybody so, when I travel to do TV, people at [CNN, etc.] fight over who gets to babysit for her… There might be dogs as spoiled as her, but none that are more spoiled.” Cha-Cha now has 17,000 followers on Instagram.