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Our Laguna: Laguna’s a doggone friendly town

Dogs in Laguna have a lot for which to be thankful.

They are cosseted by their owners in a town where groomers and veterinarians make house calls, bank tellers provide treats, and stores have water bowls by their front doors. One of the biggest protests ever staged in town was led by former gallery owner Richard Challis when a City Council was persuaded by public opinion to rescind its decision to ban dogs on beaches.

Local and visiting dogs can romp in the sand from mid-September through May 31 when the tourist season begins. Summer hours are before 8 a.m. and after 6 p.m.

Dog owners can enjoy the views from Crescent Bay, and Heisler and Alta Laguna parks while their dogs frolic — albeit on a leash.


And the city created a Bark Park long before other neighboring communities. Friends of the Laguna Beach Dog Park raise funds at an annual brunch to help maintain the park. The group’s 2010 Dog Calendar is expected to be available online this month.

The city also funds a shelter that provides a clean and caring environment for pets left homeless and ill-equipped to fend for themselves. It is staffed by volunteers under the direction of Nancy Goodwin.

Animal Crackers owner Gina Kantzabedian has practically put herself in the poor house finding homes for animals threatened with euthanasia and paying their medical expenses until they are adopted. The Coastline Pilot helps by running weekly pictures of her finds.

Pets are a blessing for many, but they also get blessed.


Owners are invited to bring their furry or feathered friends — even a photograph will do — to the Neighborhood Congregational Church for the 15th annual Blessing of the Animals by the Rev. B J. Beu at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

Pet vendors and representatives of volunteer pet services will be there to gather donations of pet food for homeless families. Treats for pets and people, holiday gifts and information about local animal charities will also be available.

“This is a town that loves its dogs,” said Gina Hossany, owner of Bark & Sniff Boutique & Bakery on South Coast Highway.

While doing research for a package for local hotels, she met up with Paige Strayer, owner of Dawg-Ma Companion Care. Strayer is a licensed, bonded, insured and pet CPR-certified pet sitter and dog walker. Together, they created the Dog Friendly Guide to Laguna Beach — lists of locations where pet owners can wine, dine, shop, romp, sleep, swim and play with their pals.

The brochure gives the location of dog-friendly parks and the names and addresses of restaurants and hotels that welcome pooches and how much the welcome will cost.

“The reason I built this place was so customers could bring their dogs,” said Jon Madison, Heritage Committee member and owner of Madison Square & Garden Café, which is open for breakfasts and lunches, closed Tuesdays. “If I know they have a dog and they don’t bring it, they don’t get in.”

Madison may have been exaggerating a bit, but he makes his point.

The café is one of 23 eateries — there used to be a couple more, but the policies have changed — that have patio areas for doggie diners, including Brussels Bistro and Coffee Pub; Sundried Tomato on Forest Avenue; Sushi Laguna — as long as the dogs aren’t too big — Zinc Café & Market on Ocean Avenue; the Crab Zone on Broadway and La Sirena Grill on Mermaid Street.


Spread out through the downtown: Gina’s Pizza and Pastaria and Picayo’s on North Coast Highway; GG’s Bistro, Taco Loco and the Cliff Restaurant, which has five or six tables for “dog families,” on the south side of Broadway.

In what the business community is trying to establish as the HIP District from Thalia to Diamond streets: The vegetarian Stand on Thalia; Adolfo’s, Avilia’s El Ranchito, Gina’s Pizza and Pastaria South, Heidelberg Pastry and Bistro Shop, the Koffee Klatch and Sapphire Laguna.

Sapphire is in the Old Pottery Place and shares its patio area with Studio Arts Gallery.

Gallery owner Rebecca Barber is a sucker for dogs and regulars know she keeps treats in the office. Jane Hanauer’s Laguna Beach Books is one of the many stores in town that keep fresh water for thirsty dogs to refresh themselves.

South Laguna has its fair share of restaurants with outdoor eating areas: Café Vienna, Papa’s Tacos and a front patio at Eva’s Caribbean Kitchen, on the highway.

Z Pizza and La Sirena border the parking lot in the Albertson’s shopping center. Both have outdoor seating available for the public. La Sirena has a sign posted saying Seeing Eye Dogs Only — but who is going to read that? Besides, nobody pays any attention to the sign, an employee said.

Laguna hostelries also accommodate dogs — high-end hotels to cozy cottages.

“We are pet friendly,” said Chris Loidolt, Montage Resort & Spa Business Center manager.


Pets up to 25 pounds may stay for a $100 deposit.

Ditto the Surf & Sand Resort.

Dogs up to 35 pounds will be accommodated at the Aliso Creek Inn & Golf Course for $50, $100 for dogs more than 35 pounds. Greens fees are not included.

Pacific Edge Laguna Beach Hotel charges a one-time $50 fee. Casa Laguna Inn & Spa charges $25 per pet.

La Casa del Camino will allow dogs up to 35 pounds at a cost of $35 per day, plus a refundable cleaning fee. Dogs may never be left alone in the hotel rooms and not even with company in the newly decorated Casa Surf rooms.

Seven4One charges $50 for dogs 50 pounds and less. The Carriage House on Catalina Street charges a mere $10 per pet per night.

“We don’t charge anything extra for dogs,” Magical Cottages owner Shelley Arends said.

However, the cottages are not large and two dogs really are pushing it, unless they fit in your purse.

“But we are flexible,” said Arends, a dog lover.

Manzanita Cottages was also listed, but more information was not available.

All dogs are not as lucky as the pampered pets of Laguna and visiting canines.

Some pets are abandoned, left to forage on their own, a trick they were never taught. They may starve unless picked up by animal control officers and that might be in a community that doesn’t dote on its pets the way Laguna does.

Every Thanksgiving Rescuing Our Furry Friends raises funds to pay for adoption fees and medical attention for abandoned, displaced or unwanted animals sentenced to death, many of them with special needs.

There is no RUFF membership — just volunteers and a board. Sandra Trulove-Silverman of Laguna Beach is the president. Vice President Marilyn Schwartz and her husband, Danny, also live in town, as do board members at large Dierdre Reed, Connie Cantu and Carolyn Croissant.

Donations are accepted by RUFF, Friends of the Dog Park and Kantzabedian. All are tax deductible.

For more information about RUFF, visit or call (949) 580-1092.

For more information about the Laguna Beach Animal Shelter, call (949) 497-3552.

For more information about LB Friends of the Dog Park, visit

For more information about Kantzabedian’s rescues, call (949) 499-1988.

Happy tails.

OUR LAGUNA is a regular feature of the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot. Contributions are welcomed. Write to Barbara Diamond, P.O. Box 248, Laguna Beach, 92652; call (949) 380-4321 or e-mail