If you are searching for the happiest place in Los Angeles, be sure to stop by a unique new café in Silver Lake. The first official canine coffee bar in the U.S. is called simply The Dog Cafe; the space allows you to get your caffeine fix while playing with adoptable pooches from local shelters and rescue centers.
The café is the brainchild of Sarah Wolfgang, a Korean-American pet lover who lived in South Korea during her teens and early 20s. “In Korea, dog and cat cafes are very common,” Sarah says. “They’re a great date spot or a family activity.” But the mission of Dog Café, she says, goes beyond merely providing a couple of hours of entertainment. “The Dog Café is totally reinventing the way people connect with homeless dogs. We want to provide an opportunity for people to see these dogs—many of whom have been abused or abandoned—in their true light and appreciate how adoptable they really are.”
Coffee, tea or Fifi?
Dog Café guests get an hour of playtime with the pups, along with a coffee, tea or lemonade for a $10 entrance fee. To comply with health regulations, the beverages are dispensed in an adjacent storefront but you can bring your drinks with you when you enter the doggie lounge.
On a recent weekday, a dozen dogs were hanging out at the café, along with half as many two-legged guests. Bart and Lisa, Dachshund-Jack Russell siblings who are named for The Simpsons characters, were spooning contentedly on a sofa. Betsy, a mix of cattle dog and Welsh corgi, sat blissfully in the lap of a coffee-sipping patron while nearby a Yorkie-Pinscher mix and Papillon-Chihuahua played a spirited game of tug with a rope toy.
All the dogs here are friendly, but they have their quirks, like shyness or not wanting to be picked up. “We don’t take in the most adorable, cuddliest dogs,” Sarah says. “It would be silly for us to pull dogs from shelters that would be easily adopted without our help. Instead we look for dogs that have been in the shelter for more than a month and may need some socializing.”
This is doggie rehab, a halfway house for pups. We’re giving second chances to the dogs who most need it.”
In the six weeks since The Dog Café opened, nine pooches have found permanent homes, with several more adoptions pending. Not everyone who visits the café is interested in adopting a pooch. “Some people use the café as therapy after a loss,” Sarah says. “Others may not be able to have a dog at home but they want to experience puppy love. And the more often they come in, the more the dogs recognize them and show that love.”
Shelley Levitt is an editor at large for Live Happy.