Putting a Rug on Rover
Ruth Regina likes to say her business is going to the dogs, but it’s actually just going to their heads.
A wigmaker to the stars, Regina is now designing hairpieces for dogs -- braids, curls and extensions that can be dyed, highlighted and styled to order for pampered pets.
“I just see now that the little dogs are being carried around in Chanel carriers. They’re wearing tiaras and sunglasses and visors,” she said. “Dogs are just little people in fur coats.”
Regina, an eighth-generation wigmaker, got her break during the golden age of television. She was the wig master and makeup artist for “The Jackie Gleason Show,” which filmed in Miami Beach from 1962-70.
She was also in charge of beauty for the Miss Universe pageant from 1959-72, helping contestants look as if they weren’t wearing a lot of makeup when they were. Throughout the years, she also did hair and makeup for stars filming movies or television programs in South Florida.
At Regina’s wig shop in Bay Harbor Islands, there are pictures of her with stars including Judy Garland and Marisa Tomei. The autographed picture from Garland calls her the “wonder worker,” and Regina’s wig work is displayed on dozens of mannequin heads on the shelves.
Exuding old-fashioned glamour -- how old, she won’t say -- she takes her doggie designs out of a pink wig box and describes each one as if she were advising a human customer.
The “Yappy Hour,” a cascade of curls, can be custom-made with synthetic or human hair and dyed any color, including pastels. With openings for ears and an elastic band to hold it in place, it’s a good choice for hairless dogs, she said.
The “Peek a Bow Wow” can fall down over part of a dog’s face, giving a glamorous look reminiscent of 1940s movie star Veronica Lake. It’s a good style for “any dog that has feeling, you know, a sexy dog,” she said.
“There’s some dogs that have the come-hither look,” she said.
There’s also the “Rover R-r-r-rug,” straight hair that can be used as bangs, and “Buddy Braids,” good for a dog with a little hair since they are held on with clips, Regina said.
Although she has made her living making wigs, Regina acknowledges that they were not popular for years, except for people with thinning hair, chemotherapy patients and others who needed them.
“The general public for many years were not wearing wigs unless they really had a strong need for it, but now everything has changed,” she said. “Wigs are so in. Hairpieces, extensions. It is a very big thing now.... I thought, well, why not for doggies?”
Regina has not sold any canine hairpieces yet, although she said she had potential customers, such as pet shops, lined up.
She figures that “mommies of doggies” who treat their pets like children will be willing to pay the price -- $18 to “hundreds of dollars” -- that Regina expects to charge for the hairpieces, some of which will be custom-made.
Eve Huerta, owner of a doggie boutique next to Regina’s wig store, agrees. At her Teacup Couture, she carries accessories for tiny teacup dogs, including sunglasses, hats, jeans, army fatigues, even costumes. She said she was interested in carrying some of Regina’s hairpieces in “funky colors.”
“I think she’s onto something that’s really great,” she said. “I don’t see why it would be different or strange.”