The Dogs of Coral Gables

How the City Beautiful Pampers its Pooches

By Lizzie Wilcox

November 2018

A woman pushes a stroller down Coral Way. It’s not an unusual sight until you peer into the stroller and see a French bulldog and not an infant. Ghio, an elderly dog, cannot walk as far as his younger French Bulldog companion, Zachary. Magdalena Howard, a dog walker with Miami Pet Concierge, extends the hood of the stroller over Ghio to protect him from the midday sun. Stroller in one hand, leash in the other, Howard makes her way down the sidewalk. Both dogs are smiling from pointy ear to pointy ear, Zachary because he is getting walked, Ghio because he doesn’t have to. 

This is the second dog walking trip of the day for Howard, and for Nicole Packin, founder and CEO of Miami Pet Concierge. Earlier, they walked Mambo and Bizou, two more canine Coral Gables residents. Thanks to Miami Pet Concierge, Mambo and Bizou can still be taken out during the day while their mom is at work. 

When it comes to dogs, few cities pamper their pooches as does the City Beautiful. Its leading hotels, The Biltmore, Aloft, and The Colonnade, are all dog friendly and allow overnight stays. The waiters at Fritz & Franz Bierhaus on Merrick Way will bring a water bowl out for your thirsty canine. The high-end Sawa restaurant in Shops at Merrick Park actually has a separate dog menu. The Starbucks on Miracle Mile serves a Pupaccino – a small cup of whipped cream – to go along with your Frappuccino. 

Walking – or pushing – dogs starts at $25 a stroll, and is just one of the many services that Miami Pet Concierge offers. Here, Mambo and Bizou go for a walk

And it doesn’t stop there. Dogs can run unleashed in the city’s unofficial dog park, an open area of Matheson Hammock Park across from Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. They are also permitted (leashed, of course) on the University of Miami campus, frequently showing up in classrooms. Across town at the historic Venetian Pool, the end of the “Mean Season” summer is celebrated each October with Paws in the Pool, where owners can swim with their dogs. 

“The people of Coral Gables, they really love their animals,” says Tess Oliver, owner of Best in Show pet spa, a mobile grooming service for Gables canines. “It’s really obvious. Those are the best clients to work with because they want what’s best for their dogs.” 

Coral Gables is, of course, not alone in its fascination with pet dogs. There are an estimated 90 million dogs living in the U.S. today, and according to U.S. News, Americans will spend $70 billion on the care of these and other pets this year. While data on dogs is not separately broken out, much of that money goes to the canines – including $20 billion spent on grooming, boarding and medicines. Fortune magazine puts the average annual cost for dog care at $1,641. With its affluent population, Coral Gables is a good place to provide such services. Oliver’s business took off in less than two months, thanks to the love Gables residents have for their four-legged companions.  

“First and foremost, I do think people are crazy about their pets, especially their dogs – not to take away from cats, and birds, and other fauna,” says Mark Trowbridge, CEO and president of the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce. Trowbridge, himself the proud owner of a Bulldog named Winston Churchill, sees dogs as the ultimate antidote to the stress of life as a business owner or executive. “They live enormous, pressure-filled lives. [Dog ownership] is where people find their peace and joy. Dogs are unconditional lovers of you and the human condition.” 

The dog: Sir Winston Churchill Trowbridge
Breed: English Bulldog
Age: 10
Owner: Coral Gables Chamber CEO and President Mark Trowbridge
Quirks: “His secret passion and talent is to possess any type of towel, blanket or small rug. He decides where they should be placed and oftentimes moves them around the house while I am at work. But he meticulously stretches them out and back into fully unfurled fashion by using his front paws.”

But dog ownership, especially if you have to subcontract for basic services, does not come cheap. According to CNBC, owning a dog can cost anywhere between $27,074 – $42,545 over its lifetime. The dog owners of Coral Gables probably spend more than that. Between walkers, groomers and trainers, we spend a pretty penny on our pups.  

Business people live enormous, pressure-filled lives. [Dog ownership] is where people find their peace and joy. Dogs are unconditional lovers of you and the human condition

Mark Trowbridge

Walking – or pushing – dogs starts at $25 a stroll, and is just one of the many services that Miami Pet Concierge offers. The company also offers boarding, starting at $100 per night, at Packin’s Coral Gables house, where the dogs are cared for in a home-like environment. They also take dogs on park visits starting at $55, will sit for pets starting at $35 and even offer taxi services. Their most in-demand service is the overnight stay, starting at $150, where an employee spends the night at the owner’s home while the owner is away, making sure the dog is neither alone nor removed from its comfort zone.  

Dog training is another critical service provided by canine care givers. At Cadence K9, a dog training service launched in January 2017, the most popular programs are its boot camps, where dogs are boarded and trained daily. Their Puppy Camp is exactly what it sounds like, a two-week training boot camp for dogs four-months-old or younger. For $2,500, your puppy will be obedient and potty trained in half a month. For dogs older than four months, they offer a three-week on-leash camp for $3,250 that teaches commands like “down,” “sit” and “stay,” as well as behaving when a car is passing by. Training your dog “off-leash” – the gold standard of obedience – takes four weeks and costs $4,100. The most intensive (and expensive) boot camp runs from six to eight weeks at $5,500. This camp is geared toward dogs with aggression or anxiety. 

Cadence K9 is a dog training service launched in January 2017. Above is a training session in Tropical Park with Maxine (left) and Odie (right).

Owner Rebecca Pasko knew she wanted to work with dogs at a very young age, and has been training them since she was eight-years-old. “It really is my life passion,” Pasko says.  

Pasko’s small staff of four only takes up to 10 dogs at a time, so they’re given plenty of one-on-one training. They also go on “doggy field trips” to local bark parks, like one in Tropical Park where they are unloaded four at a time. During one session, we watched a trainer walk Maxine, a German Shepard, calmly around two smaller dogs, Odie and Finneus, while practicing basic commands. You would never know Maxine used to pull her owner every which way when a dog crossed her path on a walk. A Rottweiler named Gretta, meanwhile, has lost her aggressive tendencies and become a star-student during the training session – while also boasting the shiniest coat.  

“We base our care structure on our clients’ pets’ age, breed and health and that’s important because, like children, no dog is the same,” says Pasko. “Each dog is unique, just like a child is unique.” 

The Dog: Emma 
The Breed: Doberman Pincher 
The Age: 5 
The Owner: Jossie Aldrich, proprietor of Jossie’s Couture on Miracle Mile 
Quirks: “Emma is one of five dogs that we own. They all get depressed when we leave the house. Emma thinks she is a little kid. She doesn’t realize that she’s a big dog. She is all over everyone. And she has never barked.” 

To Jarbas Godoy, the owner of Dog From Ipanema, dogs aren’t only like children, they are children. The groomer opened his first store in 1976 in Brazil. He came to the States in ‘78 and opened his second store in ‘86 in the Shops at Merrick Park. After 22 years, he moved the operation to 57th Ave., across the street from the Gables in South Miami. 

The walls of Godoy’s shop are covered in photos of dogs that have been groomed there, or “babies” as he likes to call them. To ensure that the babies are as comfortable and calm as possible while they wait to be washed, they are kept in a dark room with a TV on that streams videos of cats. At the end of each day, every cage is disinfected. Godoy spends as much money on perfume for dogs as Gables residents spend on themselves, spraying the newly-groomed babies with Jimmy Choo, Calvin Klein, Dior, Burberry or Givenchy. A groomer noted he spends $400 a month on perfume.  

Jarbas Godoy, Owner of Dog from Ipanema

“What always attracted me to the field was just to make beautiful dogs,” Godoy says. Godoy has clients come all the way from Key West for services like “cording” “hand stripping” and “de-matting.” Whether from Key West or Coral Gables, dog lovers are willing to spend $100 an hour on these services. In addition, a bath/clean-up costs $60 for small breeds and $75 for larger breeds. Haircuts include a bath with a starting price of $80 for small dogs and $100 for medium to large dogs. Nail trimming can be done for an additional $30, as well as teeth brushing for $9. For $30 extra, you can pay for an express service to prevent your fur baby from waiting in a cage. 

The idea that any of our four-legged friends should have to wait in discomfort was what prompted the launch of a mobile veterinarian service, the canine equivalent of an old-fashioned doctor’s house call. Fetch My Vet provides premium in-home vet care, offering every service you’d find at a normal veterinarian from comprehensive diagnostics to vaccinations to dental care. 

What always attracted me to the field was just to make beautiful dogs…

Jarbas Godoy

Bairon Madrigal, office manager of Fetch My Vet, says their furry clients live longer, happier, healthier lives. “In-home care gives us the opportunity to reduce stress for pets and their owners and to really help enforce that pet-owner bond,” he says. 

The Dog: Honey Bagel 
The Breed: Beagle 
The Age: 3 
The Owner: Attorney Brian Barakat 
Quirks: “She likes to unwind things. The most expensive thing she has destroyed is the new carpet. She doesn’t chew on it. That would be too mundane. She unwinds it, she gets her teeth in the loop and unwinds it, one seam at a time. It takes a long time, but she is a meticulous dog.” 

With so many people in Coral Gables in love with their canines, it’s not surprising that residential enclaves would cater to them. When Teresa Burke moved to the Gables at the end of June with her husband and English Bulldog Myrtle, finding a dog-friendly apartment complex was a major prerequisite. So, they chose to live at Gables Columbus Center on Minorca Ave., which is dog-friendly to say the least. The building’s concierge will set up grooming appointments, as well as do pick up and drop off, and they have complimentary treats at the concierge station along with Paws to Care products, like bones and bowls.  

Gables Columbus Center also holds “Yappy Hour” events in which they host pet-related businesses like groomers, trainers, vets and pet clothes companies. Just like only children need friends to play with, only dogs need canine companions. “[Yappy Hour] was a great experience for us and to get her socialized with the other dogs in the building,” Burke says. “The concierge team and leasing people really go out of their way to make me feel comfortable and make Myrtle feel comfortable.”  

Teresa Burke with English Bulldog Myrtle at Gables Columbus Center

Burke was also happy to know that Coral Gables, as a city, is dog welcoming. Few events reflect this more than Paws in the Pool, which has been an annual event at the Venetian Pool for nearly a decade. For one day only, dogs are invited to swim in the water and play in the sand with the other Coral Gables canines. 

There are two sessions: one for small dogs and one for big dogs. This year, both of them reached maximum capacity of 200 dogs. Supervisor Jose Vilar described the event as successful, as there were no injuries – although the lifeguards did have to intervene on two separate occasions. “We had to rescue two people because their dogs were swimming on them,” Vilar said. “So the lifeguard had to jump in and save both the owner and the dog.”  

The Dog: Jackie Kennedy 
The Breed: Dachshund  
The Age: Declines to reveal 
The Owner: UM architecture professor and DPZ Principal Lizz Plater-Zyberg 
Quirks: “The trainers tell you to dissuade your dog from greeting you with wild enthusiasm, but I must admit I love the wild enthusiasm…. She has a specific way of asking to be petted and scratched, in which she puts her paws on her face as if she were getting ready to pet herself.” 

Another annual tradition is the Halloween dog costume contest at the Coral Gables Museum.  

“We see a lot of events for the children and the parents but there weren’t really any for our four-legged friends,” says Ashley Magluta, director of events at the museum. “There’s so many people that treat their dogs like children anyway, so why can’t they get in on the fun?” 

Entrance costs $5 and all proceeds go to the Humane Society of Greater Miami. The winner of the costume contest will take home a bark box with a training certificate to Applause Your Paws and a $25 PetSmart gift card.  

Over the years, Magluta has seen dog owners get pretty creative – and even political. “I’ve seen a dog in a suit and a wig as Donald Trump,” she laughs.  

And last month marked the inaugural Bark and Brew event in Merrick Park. The Shops collaborated with dog-friendly Sawa restaurant and Stella Artois beer to raise money for the Humane Society. A $20 donation gave you a Stella, access to the buffet and treats for your canine companion.   

Resident Linda Colsky takes her fur baby, Rosebud, to as many as possible, attending both Paws in the Pool and Bark and Brew. Colsky states the obvious: “Dog people are the best people.” 

The Corgi of Coral Gables

The City Beautiful is so dog-obsessed that even a Pembroke Welsh Corgi can become a local celebrity. Nine-month-old Daphne is known both around town and on Instagram as “the Corgi of Coral Gables.” She is already a fan-favorite among the staff at the dog-friendly Biltmore Hotel.  

Her mom, Paola Arencibia, created the social media account as a cute way to show what was going on in the city. One of her posts was of Daphne posing in front of The Biltmore, her ears bracketing the tower. Arencibia tagged The Biltmore Hotel, and after the staff saw it, they invited her and the dog to spend the night. Since then, Daphne’s become a regular visitor. 

Arencibia first fell in love with the Corgi breed in college when a friend was house-sitting nearly a dozen of them for a woman who showed dogs. “They were like people; they were just so sentient,” Arencibia said. “They had so much personality I couldn’t believe it.”  

At the time Arencibia was introduced to the Corgis, they were – and still are – a breed made famous by Queen Elizabeth of England, who has kept Corgis for 74 years. Over that period, she owned more than 30 corgis, the last of which died in October. The American Kennel Club describes the breed as “a big dog in a small package… fearless and independent.” 

Arencibia, who grew up in the Gables, says Daphne has personality to the point of being “quirky.” One of the dog’s favorite pastimes is laying on her back and being dragged around the house on a leash. “She’s got a little bit of Coral Gables [in her],” says Arencibia, adding the caveat: “She’s supposed to be refined, but she isn’t.