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Photo by Rebecca Blackwell © 2003 Town Topics

WORKING LIKE A DOG: Paige Peterson, owner of Rouge, holds her Chihuahua Lola inside the Witherspoon Street store. During the workday, Lola and Louie, a Chihuahua belonging to store manager Christina Alizzo,roam freely in the store and rear courtyard. End of caption.

A Walking Tour of Princeton In the Dog Days of Summer

By Sue Repko

Bubba paces the hardwood floors of Michael Graves' offices at the corner of Nassau and Harrison streets, making the rounds, extracting payment from the employees who are smart enough to keep a little extra something in their desks. If he runs into any trouble, he calls for backup from his pal, Rambo. Hand over the biscuit... or else.

Bubba – whose real name is Bauhaus, after the avant garde German design school – is a 72-pound Australian shepherd, and his cohort is 15-year-old Rambo, a white toy poodle. Like many dogs in Princeton, they go to work every day. Their parents are the husband-wife team of Susan Howard, principal and chief financial officer, and Ken Zauber, special assistant for legal affairs for Graves' architectural firm.

On a humid August day, Mr. Zauber wore a kelly green polo shirt with the words, "Daddy's Crew" on the left side. Embroidered likenesses of the dogs, along with their names, appeared underneath. "They attend high-level meetings with clients," he said. "Rambo sits on Susan's lap. Bubba eyeballs everyone, makes sure things are orderly, then lies down...until the food comes out. They'll eat lunch with us." Other dogs that come to work at the studio include Sarah, Mr. Graves' own golden Labrador, and Suke, Stacy Kelley's red Australian shepherd.

Down the road at Marlowe's, a jewelry and repair store in the Princeton Shopping Center, a King Charles spaniel named Alana reigns. "She comes every day except Wednesday, which is my day off," said co-owner Marlene Marlowe, who couldn't resist buying Alana – described as "a ball of fur" at the time – from a customer. The spaniel is now four years old, and her coloring is known as Blenheim, which refers to chestnut markings on white. Mrs. Marlowe and her husband, Richard, also have two Italian greyhounds – Phoebe and Minnie – who occasionally go to work. "Lots of people come just to see the dogs, but walking all three is a challenge," said Mrs. Marlowe with a laugh.

On Nassau Street, there's another four-legged jewelry salesman who's also a small game hunter. Isaac – a Petit Bassett Griffon Venden – works with Mitch Forest of Forest Jewelers. He's been groomed to have longer hair on his head and ears and around his mouth so he looks like he has a bushy mustache. According to the American Kennel Club, this breed originated in the Venden area of France, and they are known for their ability to sniff out and hunt small game over rough terrain. Isaac is a purebred, counting Westminster champions in his lineage. "He's very much a part of the fabric of the store," said Mr. Forest. "Clients bring him food and want to take him for a walk. He loves being led across the street so he can chase the squirrels on campus."

Street of Canines

By all accounts, Witherspoon Street could be called Dog Heaven.

Portia – part black Labrador, Doberman, and Great Dane – has been coming to work at Luttmann's Luggage for seven years. Scott and Tiffany Bogenrief, Portia's masters, recently began bringing along Chantico as well. Tucked into a mini-carrier strapped onto a person's chest, this black Teacup Chihuahua will weigh just about two pounds when she's full-grown. By bringing their dogs to work, they are carrying on a tradition started by Mr. Luttmann himself. When cleaning out a room above the store, Ms. Bogenrief, the daughter of current owner Frank Ricatto, came across an article about the two boxers Mr. Luttmann always kept in the store.

On a recent rainy afternoon, Portia was visited by one of several canine acquaintances who also spend their days on Witherspoon Street. This one – a full-size Blue Brindle Chihuahua – wandered into Luttmann's, checked out Portia sleeping in a corner on her bed, backed up to the door, barked a few times at the occupants and left, turning right up Witherspoon Street. Fortunately Mr. Bogenrief recognized her and gave chase, calling, "Lola! Lola!" as he went up the street.

Lola ducked into Rouge, a shop where she spends most of her days, along with Louie, a black and tan Chihuahua. Evidently, that day Lola was not wearing the collar that would activate the invisible fence installed in the floor of the shop, and that's how she had gotten away. Paige Peterson, the owner of Rouge, is Lola's caregiver. Louie's companion, Rouge employee Christina Alizzo, takes him with her everywhere. "I started that the day I got him. He's pretty adaptable." She bought Louie from a breeder who brought him into the store. "It was the most spontaneous thing I've ever done in my life," she said.

"They're very territorial," said Ms. Alizzo. "If another Chihuahua comes into the store, they won't bark, but another breed... We put them out back." Not only do Louie and Lola get along, they have a thing going on. According to Ms. Alizzo, they kiss, they flirt, they cuddle. And they're depressed when the other is gone. When Ms. Alizzo was asked if Louie and Lola plan to have a family some day, she demurred and alluded to managing the relationship to ensure that doesn't happen.

Further down Witherspoon Street, Jorge Armenteros occasionally brings his two mutts – Mambo and Smoky – to work at A Little Taste of Cuba, a cigar bar. Mambo was rescued from a pound in Voorhees. Smoky had been tortured by kids in his Newark neighborhood until a woman rescued him and talked about him on a radio call-in show when Mr. Armenteros was tuned in. He encourages his customers to bring their pets into the store rather than tying them up outside. "Once one of our customers tied a mastiff to a bench, and when the dog decided to chase a car, he went tearing into the street dragging the bench behind him."

Hulfish Street Hijinks

Another link in the Lola-Louie chain can be found at the Zoë shoe store on Hulfish Street. Daniela Dogaru has had Leo, a blond, long-haired Chihuahua for about four months. He's seven months old now and is understandably skittish around children, who have a tendency to pull his ears. Playing it safe, he'll go behind the counter and wait until Ms. Dogaru is talking with a customer before beginning his cautious approach. When things are slow in the store, he goes to the window, gets up on his hind legs and watches the cars and people go by. When he's not stealing socks and hiding them in the store, Ms. Dogaru takes him over to Rouge to play with Louie and Lola.

Across the street, Erin Szejner of Palmer Square Management brings her golden retriever, Jake, to work a few times a month. The business owners and patrons of Palmer Square are his family. He's nine months old now and "loves coming to work," said Ms. Szejner. "He knows where he is and runs up the steps. He gets around town." When they take walks, she stops in on tenants to see how things are going. "It's a social thing," she said.

They invariably end up at Hazel and Hannah's Pawtisserie, where a hand-painted note on the door reads, "You may bring in your humans," and owner Will Hassett forks over a few all-natural treats. The shop is named for Mr. Hassett's dogs; Hannah, a Rhodesian ridgeback can be seen most frequently in the shop. New employee, Randie Roderick, has begun bringing Henry, her nine-month-old Doberman, who can get a little excited at all the foot traffic in the store.

Among the shop's many specialized pet products, a framed simple sketch of a small dog stands out on one wall. It says, "For the Pawtisseri/ Welcome to the neighborhood." It's initialed by Michael Graves. In a town where "man's best friend" rules, it seems the dog lovers have no trouble tracking each other down. And with all the dogs going to work in Princeton, the governing bodies might want to follow the lead of Carmel, California, which recently unveiled its "Fountain of Woof," a dogs-only drinking fountain. An exclusive watering hole for pooches might be just what the vet orders – working 9-to-5 can be a real grind.

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