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It's one lucky dog who gets to go out on the town in South Tampa these days.

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 10, 2002

DAVIS ISLANDS -- Hildy was howling so loudly I thought the guys in the band would ask us to leave.
[Times photos: Stefanie Boyar]
Cap, Cap Jr., Moss and Remy, border collies owned by Tampa resident Mike Rahal, perch on the back of a Dodge pickup truck. The foursome has many opportunities in South Tampa, where dog-friendly businesses, cafes and even water fountains abound.
But no, they were grinning.

It was Saturday night at our neighborhood hangout, Pipo's. We'd gone for a walk with pooch, not planning on stopping. The music drew us in. We ordered Mojitos, tied the pup on the sidewalk, and headed toward the dancers on the patio.

Poor Hildy, with her deep insecurity born of a foster childhood, began to bark and howl, belting out a ballad that nearly bested the band.

As we mambo-ed toward her, she calmed down. As we mambo-ed away, her soulful singing returned.

I was ready to giving up on dancing.

But then the band made way for this unexpected guest vocalist.

There came, in Spanish, a song about el perro.

The dog.

"Hey, she was barking in all the right places," a band member said later. "Bring her back next week. We'll give her a microphone."

Now that's what I call dog friendly.

Inspired by such experiences, we looked to other South Tampa dog owners for their favorite cafes and corners.

From Westshore to Bayshore, the peninsula teems with dog parks, dog beaches and dog novelty shops -- along with more ordinary enterprises staffed by canine conspirators.

"There are so many places in this town to take your dog," said architect Mike Rahal, who drives his four border collies around Tampa in a pickup truck.

"I take mine everywhere. They are really stimulated by everything they see."
Kay Fritchman, owner of Jake's Canine Cafe, decorates a doggie birthday cake at her shop on W Kennedy Boulevard.
Dogs can work up a sweat on Bayshore Boulevard, cool off at the Davis Islands Dog Beach, clean up in its all-dog shower, grab a bite at Jake's Canine Cafe on Kennedy Boulevard, and then do a little shopping at Old Hyde Park Village, before taking in the night life at Pipo's.

Bayshore, of course, is their Champs Elysees, a place to sniff and be sniffed.

Tampa isn't Paris, though, and canine camaraderie goes only so far. State regulations don't allow dogs inside restaurants. Patios are a gray area, so good doggie diplomats are courteous and careful not to offend health inspectors, known to be skeptical of tails.

Put on your dancing shoes, Hildy.

It's time to take in the town.

Dogs spending money

Davis Islands
A parched pooch, top, gets a drink from a doggie drinking fountain in the Davis Islands business district.
The one-block business district on East Davis Boulevard between Barbados and Biscayne avenues is a dog owner's nirvana, with outdoor patio areas and sidewalks surrounding nine restaurants and cafes, plus dog-friendly businesses and even dog-level water fountains at either end of the strip.

The sidewalk adjacent to the businesses is key. It allows owners to park pups outside of food service areas, but still within sight of tables.

Davis Islands Hardware, 241 E Davis Blvd., 251-0390

In addition to metal trash cans and yardsticks, this old-fashioned neighborhood hardware store offers dog food, frisbees, leashes, collars, rawhide toys, flea drops, and pooper scoopers.

Estela's Mexican Restaurant, 209 E Davis Blvd. 251-0558

We recommend the enchiladas with poblano sauce, and the house margarita, on the rocks with extra salt. Pooch will be served water in a stylish metal takeout pan. Estela's lovely wrought iron fence allows dogs to be tied on the sidewalk just outside the seating area.

The Fig Leaf, 221 E Davis Blvd., 254-1615

Area artisans create many of the goods in this creative little shop, including handmade paper clocks with pet motifs, and Dalmation Jasper jewelry. Owner Sharon Rose is working on a line of doggy tote bags with handworked designs of different breeds and space for your dog's picture. She also offers free treats for kids and dogs.

Grecian Island Restaurant, 223 E Davis Blvd., 251-2222

Try the Greek Salad or yummy Gyros. American favorites like grilled cheese are also on the menu, along with classic breakfast treats Eggs Benedict and Spinach and Feta omelettes. Six outdoor tables are well-serviced by the wait staff, who will gladly bring your dog water.

Ruby, Doc MacDonald's Labrador retriever, is a regular among the daily breakfast crowd at Java and Cream. "She's the canine mayor of Davis Islands," says MacDonald, who was joined recently by Brian Yelmen, left, for a coffee.
Java and Cream, 225 E Davis Blvd., 254-8162

A double scoop of pistachio is our favorite, and our pooch's too, especially when the top scoop falls off and hits the sidewalk. Owner Dennis Cavanaugh, a fixture on the strip for five years, is friendly and so is his staff. They serve up 30 flavors of hand-dipped ice cream as well as coffee and desserts, bagels and muffins.

Pink Flamingo Cafe, 210 E Davis Blvd., 251-2928

Outside picnic tables at this funky, island-themed cafe are perfect for dog owners, and the kindhearted staff brings water without being asked. Breakfast is a standout, with buttermilk pancakes, BLT breakfast sandwiches and all the usuals done with extra care.

Pipo's Latin Cafe, 238 E Davis Blvd, 258-8100

Owner Danny Hernandez loves dogs -- he just got a German Shepherd puppy himself -- and the convenient arrangement of his restaurant's charming courtyard features sidewalks on four sides. Sip a Mojito, dine on Cuban favorites and dance to live Cuban bands on the patio, while your pup slumbers within view, dreaming of a dog's life in old Havana.

Rick's Italian Cafe, 214 E Davis Blvd., 253-3310

Park pooch on the sidewalk while you enjoy Parmigiana on the patio. This casual cafe serves hearty, Americanized versions of Italian favorites like Linguini with Clam Sauce, Chicken Parmesan, and Baked Ziti.

Serendipity, 231 E Davis Blvd., 254-1535

Funky, fun shop features arty trinkets and gifts for people, plus great stuff for dogs including make-your-own pet collars, dog bone rugs, animal books, dog collar charms and "Minty Fresh Breath Balls."

Doggies need a potty area. What would be more appropriate than the fire hydrant at Davis Islands' dog beach.
Tate Brothers Pizza, 233 E Davis Blvd., 251-2767

Sit on the outside deck with a beer and a slice while the pup makes friends with other doggie regulars on the sidewalk. This family-style pizza place also serves salads, calzones, sandwiches and chicken wings. Draft and bottled beer, including Guiness and Tetley, and live music three nights a week.

TateBuster Video, 227 E Davis Blvd., 258-3926

Suggested titles: Beethoven I-IV, My Dog Skip, Lady and the Tramp I and II, Best in Show, Kipper, and Olive, the Other Reindeer. This small, independent video store charges 99 cents for family rentals, $3.50 for new releases and $2.99 for most other categories. Also offers tanning beds, dogs not allowed.

220 East, 220 E Davis Blvd., 259-1220

Recently added outdoor tables permit sitting within pooch range while you dine on New American favorites. Try Steak Al Forno, a 12-ounce New York strip with garlic and rosemary in a Parmesan crust, Pork Margarita, marinated in a Jose Cuervo margarita then char-grilled, and Chicken Thai Cobb, a Thai-style Cobb salad.

Yeoman's Road, 236 E Davis Blvd., 251-2748

Sit outside on the sidewalk tables or the side terrace. This British pub features yummy pub grub, seven imported beers on tap and more than 25 in the bottle. Fish and Chips and Shepherd's pie are stand-bys, but also check out The Fergie Melt: made with bacon, turkey, coleslaw, tomato and Swiss Cheese on Pumpernickel with Thousand Island, then pressed.

Old Hyde Park Village

This little neighborhood of stores, restaurants and cafes is a great place to walk dogs. Tables beckon outside Blackhawk Coffee in the courtyard at Snow Circle. Some stores are fine with well-behaved dogs, and some even put water bowls out as a daily courtesy, but dog owners should ask before entering with a pooch.

Anthropologie, 703 S Dakota Avenue, 250-3600

Regulars have been known to drag in their owners, knowing there are free treats given out at the counter. Along with colorful, sophisticated clothes for women, a wide range of gifts are available for dogs -- funky collars, gourmet biscuits, a "Scrub-a-Dub-Dog" kit with tea-tree-oil shampoo and conditioner. Add dog books to that list, including Fashion Dogs, with photos of dressed up dogs, and Sweetie, From the Gutter to the Runway, a sort of gossip and advice book for dogs with questions like, "I'd like to start a meat fan club, any ideas on how I begin?"

Jake, a German short-haired pointer, chases a ball at Davis Island Dog Beach.
Blackhawk Coffee Cafe, 1628 W Snow Circle, 258-1600

The outside portion of this homey cafe features a wonderful shaded courtyard and eight concrete tables outfitted with checkerboards and Adirondack chairs. Servers will bring water and treats to dogs, and serve up coffee drinks, teas, desserts, beer and wine to people.

Nature's Table, 1622 Snow Ave., 254-9288

Eight outdoor tables provide plenty of space to sit and enjoy healthy smoothies, sandwiches, chicken wraps, and ice cream. Right next to the parking garage.

Nicholson House, 1605 Snow Ave., 258-3991

Funky, arty store features fun doggie toys like cartoonish rubber dog bones, and Dr. Doris, a vet-shaped squeaky toy, as well as novelty snacks like Poochie Sushi Canine California Roll. Well-behaved dogs get treats.

Restoration Hardware, 711 S. Dakota Ave., 258-9062

Owners can make sure their dogs coordinate with the tasteful array of American Classics offered here, from sofas to porch furniture, drapes to rugs, along with the ever-helpful pet hair sponge. Thirsty dogs are offered water.

Tarpon Bay Trading Co., 1610 Snow Circle, 258-8190

This dog-friendly store is a Guy-O-Rama with an impressive array of sport-themed clothing and accessories from fishing to football. Dogs get treats, when available, and friendly scratches all the time. Items for dogs: Rugged Leatherman collars and leashes embroidered with fish. For owners: matching sandals.

Tommy Bahama, 1623 Snow Ave. , 258-8688

Furry regulars include Rat Terriers, Shi-Tzus, Chihuahuas and bigger dogs too. Owners come for the island-relaxed ambience and stylish tropical clothing and home furnishings.

The Samba Room, 1610 Swann Ave., 254-5870

Dogs can see and be seen from the patio at the Samba Room, which offers 10 outdoor tables. Chilled Evian and ceramic bowls are set up out front to make sure pooch isn't parched before he sits down. Sea Bass, Pork Tenderloin and Paella are favorites at this Cuban Bar and Latin Cafe.

Village Threads, 1605 W Snow Circle, 250-1510

Dogs who promise not to slobber on the clothes are welcome. Features contemporary, funky clothes for women including Michael Star t-shirts, handbags made of recycled denim, and cigar box purses.

A chicken liver doggie cake sells for $13.99 at Jake's Canine Cafe.
South Howard Avenue

Soho's a must-go for Fido, with shaded sidewalks sloping down towards Bayshore, and numerous cafes with outdoor patio areas. Surrounding neighborhoods are lovely places to walk, sniff, and enjoy the cool of huge old oak trees.

Cafe by the Bay, 1350 S Howard Ave., 251-6659

A converted bungalow houses this homey cafe, and six outdoor tables with umbrellas mean dog owners can feel at home, too. Open for breakfast and lunch. Favorites include the Crab Meat Omelette, Eggs Benedict with Smoked Salmon, and the Italian Skillet: green onions, red peppers, smoked sausage, and Cafe Potatoes.

Sally O'Neal's Pizza Hotline, 1319 S Howard Ave., 251-0220

A mainstay in South Tampa for 15 years, the new location has meant the addition of nine outdoor tables and a boon for hungry dog owners. Try the Spinach and Tomato pizza or the vast array of gourmet varieties, plus hefty calzones.

Starbucks Cafe, 711 S Howard Ave., 259-9982

Dogs don't know about coffee conglomerates. This is just a great, sociable place to sit as far as pooch is concerned. Plenty of shady outdoor table space to sit and sip a beautifully packaged latte.

Taqueria Quetzalcoatl, 402 S Howard Ave., 259-9982

A favorite for health-conscious eaters, this gourmet Taco stand has four outdoor tables on the patio and a bowl of water for dogs. Amazingly, the tiny counter offers 80 different beers, and customer favorite dishes include Buffalo Chicken Burritos, the spinach, feta and sundried tomato quesadilla, and Yucatan Fish Tacos.

Palma Ceia

Bean There Cafe, 3203 Bay to Bay Blvd., 837-7022

Three outdoor tables with umbrellas, and the staff is happy to bring water to dogs. Customer favorites include the Blackened Grouper Sandwich, Honey Mustard Grilled Turkey, the Crab Omelette, and of course, a wide array of coffee, espresso drinks, and teas.

Red Dog Bar and Grill, 3311 Bay to Bay Blvd. 835-4347

We just had to include it, because, you know. Red Dog has a big outdoor deck, comfortable for dogs on a lazy Sunday afternoon. But they'd definitely get squished when this bar hops. Good pub grub like burgers, wings, fajitas, with 12 beers on tap and a plethora of bottled beers. But don't try to come for lunch, they're only open after 4 p.m.

Exclusively Animal

Holly gets a trim at a grooming shop at Barks by the Bay pet boutique on S Dale Mabry Highway.
Barks by the Bay, 1732 S Dale Mabry Hwy., 254-7499

This is Neiman Marcus for dogs, with high-end accessories like collars festooned with Swarovski crystals, European-made leather leashes, custom-order dog diners in finishes to match home decor, dog carriers in Burberry plaid and complete outfits for dogs from sunglasses to sundresses. All-natural, organic dog foods and treats also available.

Jake's Canine Cafe, 3936 W Kennedy Blvd., 877-7400

Owner Kay Fritchman bakes up gourmet doggie treats right on the premises, which is why noses shift into overdrive the moment the door opens. Chicken, Cheese, and Peanut butter flavors are favorites, as are the chicken liver birthday cakes. No human food is served here, but Ansley's is right next door, so get take-out and sit outside enjoying your healthy treats while Spot enjoys his.

Pet Supermarket, 2320 N. Dale Mabry Hwy., 877-5550

This national chain offers the works from leashes to collars, Eukanuba to Science Diet. Dogs allowed in the store.

Budget Pet, 3810 S Dale Mabry Hwy., 831-9280

This family-owned store has been operating at Britton Plaza for 16 years and offers a wide array of leashes, collars, dog food, and dog brushes. Dogs are allowed in, and low-cost vaccinations are offered in the store on the first and third Saturdays of the month.

Rainforest Pets, 3401 Henderson Blvd., 871-3223

Take your dog to a rainforest, where he can try out a full line of bandannas, leashes, and collars. Owner Leigh Toborowski, suggests a test-nest on the Spa Bed, a dog bed made of memory foam that evenly distributes dog's weight, $66-$148, depending on size. Dogs allowed on a leash.

Dogs at play

Cypress Point Park, 5620 W Cypress St.

With 43 acres of beach and wooded flats, this lesser-known park is preferred by some dog owners for its unspoiled feel and water that is purported to be cleaner than Davis Islands'. Dogs can romp on the beach or sniff through the trees. Currently under development, with a planned bike trail, nature trail and restrooms, as well as a restoration of the beach.

Take Cypress Street west until it dead-ends at Tampa Bay. Go south, then west, through the office park.

Davis Islands Dog Beach, 1002 Severn Ave.

Canines and humans alike mingle on the Davis Islands Dog Beach on a recent evening. Eight acres are divided into two fenced-in areas on either side of the boat ramp, one with beach access, the other without. A picnic table, doggie clean-up supplies and dog shower are available to the public.
Also known as "Dog Church" for its Sunday-morning faithful. Most awe-inspiring moment comes when Angus, the big lab who dredges in two feet of water to get his big rock, hauls his catch up on the beach and parades it around. Applause usually ensues.

Regulars drive from as far as Odessa to get their dogs to the Sunday play date, but the beach is busy all week. Eight acres are divided into two fenced-in areas on either side of the boat ramp, one with beach access, the other without.

The parks are on the southern tip of Davis Islands, just past the Peter O. Knight Airport Terminal. A picnic table, doggie clean-up supplies and dog shower are available to the public. No restrooms for humans.

Al Lopez Park, 4810 N. Himes Ave.

Tampa's first official dog park (est. 2001) is on the northern frontier for most South Tampans, but is frequented by South-of-Kennedy types nonetheless. The attraction? Maybe it's the perversely wonderful feeling of being within a stone's throw of overdeveloped Dale Mabry Highway, yet comfortably ensconced within 126 acres of pine and oak trees that boast a nature trail and two ponds, one with decent fishing. Restrooms available for people.

Picnic Island Park, 7404 Picnic Island Blvd.

A favorite with Interbay and Port Tampa dog owners, this park features a beach with great views of the bay west to St. Petersburg, and eight and a half acres of peninsular romping ground. Picnic facilities and a boat ramp are available, as are restrooms.

Bayshore Boulevard

Thirty acres of linear space stretched along five miles from Gandy to the Platt Street Bridge. This is the boulevard for seeing, being seen and high-end sniffing. Single dog owners report that it's a great place to meet other singles with dogs, but if your pooch's romping style is non-linear, he'll feel a little stifled by the narrow strip of grass. No restrooms, and water fountains are scarce south of Rome Avenue.

Gadsden Park, 6901 S. MacDill Ave.

Slated to be an official off-leash dog park by the end of 2002, Gadsden is already frequented by Interbay dog owners and their pups. The park's 87 acres feature ball fields, picnic facilities and playground equipment, as well as a duck pond that offers plenty of stinky sniffing opportunities. People restrooms available.

Not recommended

The pond at International Plaza

Coconut the yellow lab recently had a run-in with a gator in the shopping center's retention pond.

Tell us your thoughts

Have we missed your favorite South Tampa dog spot? Tell us about it, and perhaps we'll publish a sequel. E-mail or send notes to City Times, St. Petersburg Times, 1000 N. Ashley Drive, Suite 700, Tampa, FL 33602.

* * *

City Dogs Downtown

NAMES: Cap Sr., Moss, Junior, Remy

BREED: Border collies

AGES: 7 years, 6 years, 3 years and 10 months, respectively.

THEIR HUMAN: Mike Rahal, architect

HOME TURF: Downtown Tampa

STOMPING GROUND: An urban loft, a 3,000-square-foot space that Rahal created out of a former bellows factory a stone's throw from the train station.

BIG DAY OUT: They are fixtures in the back of Rahal's red Dodge Ram and regulars at the park on Davis Islands that borders the seaplane basin, where their amazing Frisbee talents often draw an audience. Their absolute favorite place is Lowry Park, with its lush rolling terrain and sulfur spring.


Cap Sr.: "He's the alpha male, phenomenal dog, knows 35 commands."

Moss: "I should have called him Hoss, he's a big guy with a heart of gold, wants to be No. 1."

Junior: "He's quiet, kind of a loner, probably because of the trauma of his hip surgeries. Even so, he's my fastest dog."

Remy: "She's a very prissy tomboy. She bosses the boys around, but then she likes to be blow-dried and fluffed. She struts."

MILESTONES: "By the time they are 6 months old, they are on complete voice command. They are never on a leash. Cap used to get the phone for me, but it was getting pretty slobbery, so I had to untrain him on that one."

BAD HABITS: "They shed. I burned out three vacuum cleaners before I went to State Vacuum and bought a $1,200 Miele. It must be a guy thing, but that thing is so well made, I run it sometimes when I don't really need to vacuum."

* * *

City Dogs Hyde Park

NAMES: Matilda and Maude.

BREED: Italian greyhounds

AGE: 3 months

THEIR HUMAN: Kat Renn, computer analyst

HOME TURF: Hyde Park

STOMPING GROUND: "We love to go on picnics at Kate Jackson Park, and Hyde Park Village is a good place to walk around with dogs," Renn says.

BIG DAY OUT: Davis Islands Dog Beach

PERSONALITY: "They're both very dainty. They don't like to go to the bathroom outside. I'm trying to make them less prissy by taking them outside with bigger dogs. Matilda (the larger of the sisters at 6 pounds) gets all the attention because she is bolder. Maude (4.8 pounds) is shy. She was the runt of the litter."

MILESTONE: Learning their names

BAD HABITS: Although finicky, the girls have been known to eat poop.

* * *

City Dogs Davis Islands

NAME: Porsche

BREED: Doberman-shepherd mix from the Humane Society

AGE: 14

HER HUMAN: Bill Newman, CEO, Newman International Transport

HOME TURF: Davis Islands

STOMPING GROUND: Anywhere on Davis Islands. Porsche is well known at businesses on the strip. She waits outside the hardware store and the hair salon while Bill is inside. She sits on the patio while Bill eats breakfast at the Pink Flamingo.

PERSONALITY: "She is so friendly, she'll go say 'Hi' to anyone. Once we were out walking and she saw somebody's open front door. She walked right in and sat on the sofa. She got on the school bus once because she was friendly with all the kids at the stop."

MILESTONE: This old dog knows many tricks from barking on command to sitting patiently next to Bill's dinner plate, but Bill thinks her greatest achievement in her mature years is acting so young and spry. "People will say, 'What an frisky puppy!' And I have to tell them she's 14 years old!"

BAD HABITS: "She barks when she needs to go outside. Actually, I think that's a good habit."

* * *

City Dogs Gandy

NAME: Duncan

BREED: German shorthaired pointer

AGE: 2

HIS HUMANS: Jay and Carla Rudy, attorney and physical therapist, respectively

HOME TURF: South of Gandy Boulevard

STOMPING GROUNDS: Picnic Island and Gadsden Park, where he likes to sniff the stinky duck poop in the lake. The Rudys look forward to Gadsden Park's impending completion as a fenced-in, off-leash park.

BIG DAY OUT: Davis Islands Dog Park

PERSONALITY: Funny, exuberant, enthusiastic fetcher. Happy-go-lucky. Loves the water.

MILESTONES: Learning to play dead. Training to be a gun dog.

BAD HABITS: "Stealing other dogs' toys. All toys are his toys."

* * *

City Dogs Sunset Park

NAME: Angus

BREED: Black Lab

AGE: 10

HIS HUMAN: Ambler Liggett, real estate investor

HOME TURF: Sunset Park

STOMPING GROUNDS: The back yard.

BIG DAY OUT: "We go out to Davis Islands or walk around Hyde Park Village," Liggett says.

PERSONALITY: An enthusiastic rock hound, Angus has been know to dig for several hours to get at rocks as big as 50 pounds. He has excavated many of the large rocks at Davis Islands Dog Beach.

MILESTONES: Fatherhood, two weeks ago. Mom is Pixie, a yellow Lab who gave birth to two yellow pups and one black. The proud parents first met two years ago at Dog Beach.

BAD HABITS: "Sometimes he steals bread off the counter."

* * *

City Dogs Palma Ceia

NAME: Sadie

BREED: Beagle

AGE: 3

HER HUMAN: Jerry Lillard, a retired billing supervisor for GTE

HOME: Palma Ceia

STOMPING GROUNDS: The Duck Pond at San Miguel and Grady, walks along Church Street.

BIG DAY OUT: Davis Islands Dog Beach

PERSONALITY: "She's so laid back, you can take her to the vet and poke her and prod her, she won't even blink."

MILESTONES: Sadie has been helping Jerry recover from the recent loss of her husband, Jim. Their forays to Dog Beach have been therapeutic, Jerry says.

BAD HABITS: "You can't give her a squeaky toy. She chews the squeak out and buries it."

City Times: The rest of the stories

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  • Artistically evolving
  • Hail, Mikhail & White Oak
  • Plans for trendy space are aloft
  • Datebook
  • Marti was a top Cuban figure
  • Big Dad's grin won't soon be forgotten
  • New home preserves spirit of family past
  • Go dogs go
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  • Final homes in Tampa Palms begin going up
  • City leaders check out rules for historic inns
  • Little League park gets first upgrade in decades
  • As kindergarten looms, kids take first step away
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