Home-cooked meals, designer accessories and custom-built stairs—local home owners weigh in on how they spoil their pets with more than just love and affection.
In Northern Virginia, it’s normal to spoil your pets. From healthy dog food to
stylish collars, the region’s pet-friendly culture encourages dog owners to treat their pooches like family. But for some lucky local dogs, their owners go above and beyond to make their doggie dreams come true. Here, meet seven pups who are living the high life in the DMV.
The Weekend Warriors
• Names: Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent, Peter Parker, Tony Stark and Wade Wilson
• Breed: Chihuahuas
• Ages: Bruce Wayne is 5; Other dogs turn 2 this month
• Owner: Meesha Kauffman
Bruce Wayne was such a perfect fit for Kauffman that she wanted another Chihuahua just like him—and ended up with four. Bruce Wayne was genetically cloned in 2016. “I’m obsessed with Bruce Wayne,” says Kauffman. “I needed the rest to be just like Bruce because of the lifestyle we have.”
The dogs, all named after superheroes, frequently travel to Northern Virginia from their Baltimore home, as Kauffman fills every weekend with things she and her boyfriend can do with them. “I plan whole day trips around them,” she says. “Just as somebody who has toddlers does.” NoVA residents can usually find Bruce Wayne and The Others (as Kauffman calls them) in Alexandria, where they visit Frolick Dogs, Kimpton Lorien Hotel & Spa and “our dog friends who live down there,” Kauffman says. “Baltimore is not as dog-friendly as NoVA, so we often have to travel.” The pets are also jetsetters, flying frequently with Kauffman and her boyfriend when they go around the country.
Find the best pet care providers in NoVA, according to our readers, here.
The Others turn 2 this month, and Kauffman has planned an extravaganza in DC to celebrate. “We’re doing it at Life of Riley, the pet hotel and spa. It’ll be a party with a dog caricature artist, swag bags and cake,” Kauffman says. “I’m trying to see if Baltimore’s Charm City Cakes, from the Food Network, will make us a dog cake.” Lavish, tasty and fun!
Fun Fact: The dogs were filmed earlier this year for a Japanese documentary about dog cloning.
Luxury Pick: A stroller that fits all five dogs. “It takes us a long time to walk down the street if they’re not in the stroller,” Kauffman says.
Love: Customized outfits by designer Foo Foo Fido and BarkBox, a monthly subscription service
Pet Cloning, Explained
There’s only one company in America that will clone your pet, and yes, it is (very) expensive.
Currently, the only company in the U.S. that clones pets (creating genetically identical copies of animals) is Texas-based ViaGen Pets and Equine. For $50,000 per dog, or $35,000 per cat, ViaGen will collect a small tissue sample of the pet, culture new cells that share the same genetic makeup and then create embryos that are implanted into a surrogate for gestation. Many animal rights organizations, including The Humane Society of the United States, have come out against animal cloning.
• Name: Grissom
• Breed: Shih tzu-poodle mix
• Age: 12
• Owners: Elizabeth and Brett Small
Grissom isn’t what you’d call a picky eater—he simply knows what he likes. The water in his bowl can’t be from the tap, and it always has to have ice cubes in it. “I have no idea why,” laughs Elizabeth, “We notice that if the ice has melted in his water, he just stares at it and then when you put ice in it, he instantly will come over and start drinking from it. There’s no rhyme or reason to it.” For Elizabeth, it was never about spoiling Grissom, who resides in Nokesville. “I would see my friends’ spoiled dogs and say, ‘It’s ridiculous, the things you do with your dog,’ but the minute I got one I became one of those people.”
Grissom also receives homemade meals, cooked by Elizabeth with guidance from a canine nutritionist she met at her veterinarian’s office. “At one point in time, his dog food happened to be recalled, and rather than switching him to a different dog food, I started making him rice and chicken to get through the recall,” Elizabeth says. “So, when it came back to normal dog food, he was like, ‘I’m not eating that anymore.’” Grissom’s veterinarian’s office happened to have a doctor on rotation at the time who had a background in nutrition. “She worked with me to figure out how many calories he should get a day and the different ingredients to give him to come up with a meal plan I could make for him every month,” Elizabeth says.
How the Smalls treat Grissom is also a result of what he demands. “He has always been on his terms; everything is on his terms,” Elizabeth says. For example, Grissom loves long walks, but “when he is done, he is done,” Elizabeth says, and will lie down or drag his paw to pretend he is hurt, so that he can be carried. “We give him the best because he is the best,” says Brett. “He’s always smiling with his tail wagging.”
Fun Fact: Grissom was the ring bearer at the Smalls’ wedding, and wore a suit that matched the groomsmen.
Luxury Pick: Custom-made stairs Grissom uses to crawl into bed
Loves: Going on hikes with his owners (“He sits down in his backpack and it’s like he’s royalty,” Elizabeth says, “He enjoys being carried.”) and sleeping in.
Reston artist Erica Eriksdotter captures the spirit of pets in her paintings.
• Name: Frasier Simone
• Breed: Doberman-hound mix
• Age: 4.5
• Owner: Pamela Lynne Sorensen
This pup loves to strut her stuff. Frasier Simone (named after Sorensen’s favorite TV show, Frasier) was adopted from Humane Rescue Alliance in 2015. “I put it like this: God was in my life. He intervened by putting a humane society’s mobile adoption unit right on 14th Street,” Sorensen says. “It was the hottest day, and I walked into the mobile unit because I wanted to get some air conditioning and met Frasier. It literally changed my life so much.”
In four short years, Frasier Simone has developed her own fashion sense with a closet consisting of 20 matching collars and leashes, plus over 45 scarves, jackets, sweaters and other accessories, including a pearl necklace for her custom Breakfast at Tiffany’s Halloween costume and scarves with 18-karat gold-plated accents from designer brand HOUND. “She has a custom-tailored, puffy jacket with a hood to keep warm,” Sorensen says. “My mom hand-knitted a white, cable-knit sweater. She is very chic with her style. She’s always wearing sweaters and jackets; every fall she gets a new one.” Frasier Simone has also walked the catwalk for multiple charity events, including Fashion for Paws and has posed for two calendars and even appeared on TV. “Frasier is very proud when she struts around in her outfits,” Sorensen says.
And what’s a fashionista without her spa days? Sorensen’s apartment building in Rosslyn includes a dog spa, where owners can groom their pets in large wash tubs and dry them with the on-site blow dryer. Sorensen emphasizes that she only uses luxury, organic shampoo and bath products for Frasier. “She’s a dependent of mine,” she says. “I have to make sure she’s healthy and happy.”