Hungry hounds howling? Dashing Dog delivers in Vero Beach

VERO BEACH – When Eric LaHaise and John Strausberg ran out of dog food recently while dashing out of town, what they really needed was a store like the one they themselves are opening this weekend – a pet shop that delivers.

The Dashing Dog Store, on Beachland Blvd., is the beach’s first and only dog shop.

It would gladly have delivered the ultra-premium, human-worthy food that they say has cured the symptoms of their dog’s auto-immune disorder.

Unfortunately, their shop was still under construction. The closest pet store that sold the brand was in Jupiter.

With a flight to catch, the pet-sitter en route, and their dogs’ stomachs growling, they sent a staffer from their other store, Soiree Kitchen to Table, on a two-hour errand to pick up a bag.

Today, the frozen raw dog food, called Stella and Chewy’s, fills a stainless steel freezer on the sales floor.

A new steel blue mini Cooper-S sits ready to rush out for deliveries of the pricey stuff, along with 15 other brands.

And the slaps-tick end to that story is available, along with many more in their repertoire, for dog-walking customers stopping in to chat.

To give the dogs something to look forward to, Dashing Dog sells cups of frozen doggie yogurt.

“That’s going to mean more foot traffic,” says Strausberg. “That’s our goal. We want to create a community of dog lovers.”

Adorned with posters of the owners’ debonair cocker spaniels, The Dashing Dog lives up to its name – and not just with rush deliveries.

One shelf of the shop is devoted to sporting dog-emblazoned Spode china – for humans.

There is a shelf of books on dogs. Another features dog-themed costume jewelry. A doghouse-shaped center rack is filled with T-shirts that read: “Vero Beach – it’s a dog’s life.”

Mostly, though, the products are for the dogs, not their owners. Dog strollers, dog carriers, dog backpacks and dog life preservers started arriving in boxes last week, and now crowd the tiny space next to Bliss Boutique.

Strausberg, 38, says the shop’s focus is on larger dogs.

“That’s because everybody here seems to have a Lab or some other big dog.”

With those particularly playful, mouthy breeds in mind, one line of toys is particularly known for durability.

The company, called Planet Dog, boasts social responsibility and recyclable products in its rope toys, balls and chew toys that are virtually indestructible, Strausberg says.

Nothing matters more to Strausberg and LaHaise than dog nutrition, after their own dog, Trevor, developed an auto- immune disorder now kept in check, they say, by top-of-the-line food.

While the shop will deliver more moderate priced lines of dog food like Wellness, the space itself is stocked only with the highest end, additive-free dog food.

“We’re about health and well-being and holistic ways to make your pet feel better,” says Strausberg.

The shop sells all-natural treats – no formaldehyde-soaked rawhide here, though the cow continues to be the go-to source for chewies.

LaHaise gingerly pulls out the nourishing, glucosamine-filled alternative: a foot-long, tubular, amber-colored object that he hesitates before identifying.

“It’s a trachea,” he says with a wince. More enthusiastically, LaHaise, 32, pulls a tiny can off the shelf and pops the top, revealing a colorful pulp of kale, garlic and wild-caught salmon.

“This brand is Tiki Dog. See?” he says. “You can tell what it is. And it even smells like food.”

“That,” says Strausberg, “is for the Shih Tzu who only eats junk food.”

“My whole life, since I was a little kid, I loved everything to do with dogs,” says Strausberg. “This is my dream, to have a store all about dogs. “

Vero Beach, they say, is without a doubt a dog town. Already, as they’ve been setting up the store, they are amazed to see so many people passing by with their dogs.

“Everybody here has dogs,” Strausberg says. “You can sit here and count how many dogs walk by.”

They expect to be at The Dashing Dog during prime dog-walking hours – early morning, and early evening. In between, they will be checking in on Soiree, expecting to spend midday tending to a strong customer base developing since their opening in September.

Soiree sells innovative and classic cookware lines as well as tableware, linens and crystal.

As Soiree relies on an aura of elegance, The Dashing Dog manages to handle the less esthetic aspects of pet ownership with panache.

Strausberg and LaHaise are setting up a “poop station” – a white pole with a plastic bag dispenser, to encourage people to make the shop a stop on their regular dog walk.

“We want it for our customers and we want to keep our neighbors happy,” says Strausberg.

Among the items being custom-made is a line of leashes decorated with the beachside ZIP Code: 32963.

If the firm reaches its dream of opening in other locations, there will be four zip codes on collars.

The team is currently looking at spaces in dog-centric communities including Wilton Manors in Broward County, Palm Beach Gardens and Miami.

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