Lucky Puppy: Trade Cute-Dog Videos for the Real Thing

The front window of Ventura Boulevard’s new “Rescue & Retail” shop is a real-life YouTube

If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to stop wasting valuable time watching adorable baby animals do adorable baby things on video (except for, you know, the really irresistible ones), one way to start is to visit Studio City's Lucky Puppy.

Even if you never go inside this new puppy paradise, watching those doggies in the window  (rest in peace, Patti Page) is kind of like a Nicorette patch for smokers trying to kick the habit: You’ll definitely get enough puppy to allow you to delete at least a few of those e-mails from dog-obsessed friends saying: ”You gotta see this one…”

Heidi, my husband Alan and I made our first visit on New Year’s Day.  Heidi was less interested than we were in watching limp. soft baby Chihuahuas and poodles sleeping on top of each other in the window, more excited about charging inside to see what sort of treats might be accessible in this exciting new store just down the block from her other favorite shop, Maxwell Dog.  She loved the place, puppies and all.

This was something of a breakthrough for Heidi, who isn’t the world’s biggest puppy fan.  We attribute this to her history of being a young unwed mother, rescued from a Texas storm drain while keeping her litter of half-Lab puppies alive.  After homes were found for the pups and Heidi came home with us to Studio City, the princess seemed determined to shed the struggling-parent image and enjoy being young, single and gorgeous in L.A. 

When we brought her here at age 14 months, it was shortly after her puppies were weaned. And apparently she still had that yummy milky Mommy smell because puppies in the park or behind fences when Heidi pranced by would always whine and cry and paw at their confines to get closer to our girl.  Her indifferent reaction always reminded me of W.C. Fields’ famous quote:  “Go away kid, you bother me.”

Frankly, she’s also fairly picky about befriending adult canines, too.  We always figured, after her hardscrabble beginnings, she preferred life as an only dog, the one who gets all the presents at holiday time.

But, at age 10, Alan and I have to accept the fact that Heidi is a senior dog (interesting, since the two of us have not aged at all in the 9 years since she moved in). And we've heard that getting a second, younger dog can help keep the older dog active and interested in life.  So, whenever we find ourselves in adopt-a-dog situations, our radar is always up to see if Heidi appears ready for a little sibling — who knows, maybe she might just pick one out herself.

The dog and I went back a few days later to meet Melissa Bacelar, co-owner of the nonprofit business with Rachel Kennedy.  There, we found Bacelar and staffer Alice Ensor cuddling two new arrivals, probably terriers, probably less than eight weeks old. No names yet.

 Bacelar and Kennedy were able to launch their business with the aid of two anonymous “angel donors.”  All the puppies come from kill shelters.  It costs $200 to adopt an adult dog, $350 to adopt a puppy. Puppy costs are higher because they usually come to the facility needing shots and other medical attention before adoption. Lucky Puppy requires a home check before each adoption.

Today’s front window dogs are three poodles rescued from a shelter that was about to put them down because they were considered “aggressive.”  Bacelar says they weren’t aggressive, just scared.  Now, in safe surroundings, she says the pups are friendly as can be.

The company’s founders both have other professions, so this is a labor of love. “We don’t care if we don’t get paid,” Bacelar says.  The co-owners embraced the “rescue and retail” concept because they can send clueless new dog parents home with the food, toys and equipment they will need. “It allows me to tell people what your dog should be eating; every product in the store is hand-picked,” says Bacelar. Lucky Puppy makes a point of carrying different foods and products than are carried at nearby Maxwell Dog. Apparently the Lucky Puppy formula is working.  As of our Wednesday visit, 31 dogs had been adopted since the Dec. 9 opening.

And…will Heidi one day take home a Lucky Puppy of her own?  Hard to say ­— but at home that evening while we were out, Heidi managed to find an empty hoagie sandwich wrapper from Studio Sub (a fine lunch picked up on the way home from Lucky Puppy) gleefully shredded it and tossed New Year’s confetti all over the floor.   Maybe she was looking for the sandwich. Or maybe she was simply pointing out that, at age 10, she’s still our puppy.


Michele Boardman January 05, 2013 at 05:33 PM
I always wanted to get a "Fred" as a companion to Ginger the Wonder Dog, and although she was very polite to all other dogs, but she told me in no uncertain terms, "I work alone."
deborah kaye January 05, 2013 at 06:28 PM
What a sweet story!
Veronica January 05, 2013 at 07:00 PM
Nice story. Just a reminder that there are older dogs in the back of the store that need homes as much as the puppies do.
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