Who’s got who trained nowadays? Fido may be able to roll over, fetch and sit. But 21st century dogs may be smarter than we think. On command, owners will feed, walk and rub their dog’s bellies. And now, with The Pooch Patio, dogs have entered cafe society.
Pooch Patio owner April Prohaska walks through her newly constructed “haute dog” hangout. She points out the espresso machine (that whips up Bark-a-Lattes and Prissy Poodle coffee), the wine menu (featuring bottles of Unleashed Chardonnay and “Merlot Over and Play Dead”) and Bone Appetit, (a fancy food line like “mutt loaf with ground turkey” prepared for dogs, not humans).
Although the names are silly, this is serious business. According to Prohaska, Americans spend $60 billion a year on their pets. “And that’s the market I’m tapping into,” she says.
Prohaska has been in the dog business almost from birth. Growing up in New Mexico, her parents raised and bred Weimaraners. April started taking care of her first puppy, which was solely hers, at age 7.
At the University of Colorado, Prohaska studied psychology and special education. After college, she moved to Dallas thinking a career as a Southwest Airlines flight attendant sounded adventurous. But after six months, she changed her mind.
That’s when a young entrepreneur named Mark Cuban was looking for administrative help for his company AudioNet.
After learning the ins and outs of Internet programming, Prohaska became liaison between Cuban’s company and the colleges that broadcasted their games on AudioNet, which later became Broadcast.com. In her spare time, she volunteered at the Dallas SPCA. But in 2001, after Yahoo.com bought Broadcast.com, Prohaska was laid off.
At first, she thought about attending veterinary school at night. During the day, she would run a new business she called Paws Pet Services, an in-home pet sitting, dog walking and pet-transportation company. Vet school never came to fruition, but Paws took off: She now manages six employees and has more than 600 regular clients.
About two years ago, she stared dreaming about opening an indoor-outdoor pet boutique that was all-inclusive: cafe, beer and wine bar, dog day care, retail, grooming and Internet access. Her dream came true.
Pooch Patio’s self-serve grooming area is immaculate. From $10 to $17 (depending on weight) owners can shampoo and condition their pets in a walk-in shower stall; comb, brush, towel and blow-dry; and clip their dog’s nails. Two days a week, a professional groomer (who also does teeth cleaning) books appointments.
Prohaska giggles while showing me the doggie-cologne counter featuring spoofy designer names like CK-9, Pucci and Miss Claybone.
A big portion of Pooch Patio’s services tie into doggie day care, which can benefit guilt-ridden owners who work long hours and leave their dogs at home alone. Dogs are intensely social creatures, pack animals that crave companionship. Stuck inside all day, they can suffer from separation anxiety. (And how many humans can withhold a trip to the bathroom for more than 10 hours?)
At doggie day care (Mondays through Fridays 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturdays 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.), owners can drop off their pet and grab a coffee before heading to work. When they pick up their charges, they can order a beer or wine and hang out in the company of other dog lovers. While at work, owners can check up on their dogs on two different Web cams. Prices vary depending on weight, but for dogs 30 lbs. to 60 lbs. the fee is $16 a day. day care prices drop when you buy in two- or four-week blocks.
The day care facility is a 2,000 square foot tail-wagger’s lounge. The dogs can even flop down on leather chairs. There are ceiling fans, an outdoor space and through a doggie door an indoor, air-conditioned refuge.
Upon entering The Pooch Patio, visitors usually meet Bear, Prohaska’s devoted and friendly Border Collie. Not all dogs are cut out for doggie day care. Prohaska’s other dog, Blue, has subtle jealousy issues, so she only makes rare cameos.
Prohaska opened Pooch Patio last week. After signing the lease in March, she started renovating the homey space (which formerly was a mortuary) that sits behind the 7-Eleven on Oak Lawn Avenue at Fairmount Street. Her New Year’s Eve resolution was to have Pooch Patio up and running during the first quarter of 2006. Things fell into place quicker than she had anticipated.
Prohaska’s not currently in a relationship, but there’s one qualification she insists upon. “I’ve never dated a non-dog lover,” she says. “I don’t trust people who don’t love dogs.”
The Pooch Patio, 3811 Fairmount Street. 214-252-1550. ThePoochPatio.com.
PAWS ON THE WALL
Twenty whimsical portraits, taken by Carrollton photographer Margaret Bryant, adorn the walls of The Pooch Patio. In their spare time Bryant, a radio engineer, and her life partner, Teri Walker, collaborate to capture doggie expressions that practically jump out of the frame. While Margaret aims the lens, Teri is the animal wrangler who helps draw out their fun-loving smiles.
When they’re not photographing other people’s dogs, Bryant and Walker play with Molly, a Sheltie/Border-Collie mix, and Sophie, a Whippet. Photographs of Sophie are on the current edition of City + County Pets Magazine and “Roll Over Beethoven” a classical-music CD released by WRR radio.
For more information about Bryant and Walker’s work, visit BryantDogPhotography.com.