SPRING HILL — Pawing through doggie dresses, coats, sweaters and slickers — and a few feline fashions, too — one can understand why Susan Boulier, the owner of Wags N' Whiskers pet supply shop, would report, "I had a customer who even had a closet for their dog (clothing)."
Dog body dowries are but one way in which pet owners can pamper their pooches at the shop, relocated this summer to the Towne Square Mall, after the closing of USA Flea Market in Pasco County. Wags N' Whiskers flourished there for four years, after Boulier had suggested that her retired spouse, Richard, "needed something to do in his retirement."
Drawing on their business careers, the couple scouted flea markets to determine what wasn't available. Pet goods was their determination. Dog owners themselves, they started small, with little wooden plaques: "I heart my (whatever breed of dog)."
Today, the shop is replete with — in addition to more than 150 heart plaques — snazzy pet strollers, spacious playpens, Day-Glo life jackets, collars from faux pearl to chain-link, leashes from skinny to sturdy, toys, treats and trinkets, from necessary to nicety.
So, who buys the clothes?
"You'd be surprised," said Boulier, sole owner after the recent death of her husband. "Women, of course," she allowed of couture customers. Men often want spruce-up harnesses and leashes, she said.
Most of the fashions, Boulier, 72, sews herself. She eagerly designs and sews custom wearables. Clothing items are priced as low as $10.
Big with boat owners are commercially made life vests — $25 for medium-size dogs, $50 for the largest.
"They say their dog can swim, but what if the boat goes over?" Boulier said. "How long can they swim?"
Jersey tank tops are about her only feline frocks.
"Most say my cat will claw me to death if I'd put (a dress) on them," Boulier explained, adding in a near whisper, "Cats are independent souls."
Cats aren't so averse to being chauffeured. Thus, at Wags N' Whiskers, not "dog strollers," but pet strollers are lined up like autos at a dealer's lot. Buyers generally, Boulier said, are owners of elderly or blind pets, and those that can't walk long distances. "Or, some people just want to take their dog everywhere."
Strollers, all collapsible, starting at $100, accommodate one or two dogs — or cats — up to 35 pounds each.
Brakes, an under-seat storage rack, seat-attached short leashes and zippered mesh "windshields" are standard. The latter enable owners to stroll their safely contained pets into almost any store, Boulier noted.
The one two-seater model is equipped with a mesh divider "for two dogs that don't get along together," Boulier said. Another model is built with an attachment for pulling behind a bicycle. Most are four-wheelers, but the tricycle-like three-wheeler navigates best on sand.
Spacious playpens — $85 and $95, 42-inch to 52-inch diameter, 4 feet high — are made of canvas and mesh construction for indoor or outdoor use, each with a covered top and two doors, and side stakes for anchoring. One design has a removable zippered floor, offering the pet contact with the grass. They are particularly popular with camping enthusiasts.
As shoppers gear up for holiday gift buying, the shop carries a number of trinkets suitable as stocking stuffers for pets as well as their owners.
Contact Beth Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org.