Like so many other shoppers this holiday season, Satellite and Bosco had difficulty navigating the crowded cobblestone walkway at the Grove last weekend. An obstacle course of fast-moving feet and low-slung shopping bags, the bustling mall was a challenge for all sorts of beings to get around, let alone ones that were short-legged and on a leash.
Yet that was the task for this French bulldog and his Brussels Griffon pal, who, with owners Leslie and Sean Weber, go "almost everywhere" as a foursome.
"They're family," said Leslie Weber, who was wandering the mall with her brood after a hike in Runyon Canyon and lunch at the Wood Ranch grill.
The Grove is one of their regular stops. The Mid-City outdoor mall is also one of a surprising number of retail establishments in L.A. that is quietly dog-friendly, even if rules vary and typically aren't posted on site.
Great Dane or poodle. Pure-bred or mutt. It doesn't matter at the Grove, where any pup that is "well-behaved," "on a leash" and "not wanting to bite people" is invited, said spokeswoman Jennifer Gordon. And if that pup happens to drop a "present" under the mall's Christmas tree, as Bosco did recently? Just clean it up, and all will be forgiven.
The rules about shopping with dogs are as different as the breeds to which they're applied. While Sears, Target and Staples all flatly deny entrance to dogs that aren't providing service to the handicapped, Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue "welcome" dogs, as does Barneys New York, which issues its invite with the "hope that people are respectful and don't let their dogs jump on customers or the merchandise," says spokeswoman Dawn Brown.
Tiffany & Co. not only allows pet pooches, "we love dogs," gushes Jonathan Bruckner, Tiffany's regional vice president.
The city of Los Angeles is home to at least 120,000 dogs. At least, that's how many are currently registered, according to the city's Department of Animal Services. The county has 500,000 registered dogs; some experts estimate the real county number is closer to 900,000.
That's a lot of dogs.
Loredana Palivoda owns one of them. Stanley is his name, and he's a 9-year-old Italian greyhound.
"It's kind of like being with a superstar," said Palivoda, referring to the short-haired and sweater-wearing adoptee with whom she regularly shops. Nordstrom, Banana Republic, Anthropologie and the Gap are among the retailers she frequents with Stanley in tow.
"I've never, ever had an issue with him," she said.
Sure, there was the time Stanley relieved himself near the panties and bras inside Victoria's Secret, but the clerks couldn't have been nicer.
"They were very sweet," Palivoda said. "They just came and mopped it up."
Nature's call is the main reason for the "no animals on the ground" policy at Sherman Oaks Galleria, where the plaza was poured with custom-dyed, and easily discolored, concrete. Dogs in bags? Those are OK, according to Galleria general manager Katherine DeFevere. So are pets that are held in hand or pushed via stroller.
Beverly Center also allows dogs, "provided they're small and carried by hand or in a carrier," said manager Jeff Brown. How does Beverly Center define "small"? "Whatever's comfortably carried without making a mess," said Brown, admitting the definition is "kind of a gray area."
A small dog, such as the popular, in-purse Yorkshire terrier, is one that weighs less than 20 pounds, according to the American Kennel Club. Dogs weighing 20 to 45 pounds are considered medium-sized, and those weighing 45 to 100 pounds are large.
Animals tipping the scales beyond that are considered extra-large. On the rare occasion Beverly Center security personnel have happened upon a mammoth and woolly Saint Bernard in the aisles, Brown said, "We gently instruct that customer as to our policy."
A mall's policy isn't always the same as those of the individual stores inside it, however. Dogs are banned or allowed at each retailer's discretion, and pro-dog policies vary widely. Some are based on size; others on behavior or restraint systems, or both. All the law requires is that the dogs be vaccinated for rabies, said Evelina Villa of the L.A. County Department of Animal Care and Control.
The question is, which came first: the store allowing the dog or the dog wanting in to the store? Though Paris Hilton and her Chihuahua shopping mate, Tinkerbell, may have kicked off the current craze for retail-friendly "accessory dogs" and greenlighted the idea for some customers and retail managers, pet-friendly shopping has been around far longer. According to the spokeswoman for Nordstrom, dogs have been padding around its stores for more than 20 years.
Not every shopper is pleased by dogs in stores, however. While altercations are rare, options for the dog-averse are fairly straightforward: Steer clear or complain to security and try to know a store's policy before shopping there.
"We try and treat everyone coming into our store with respect, and we try to please our customers," said Brooke White, spokeswoman for Nordstrom, which allows dogs as long as they're "well-behaved" and "somehow contained." "Sometimes we're going to disappoint somebody."