Must Love Dogs

Big men are falling hard for the small breeds
The previous dog Keith Vallot owned was a 120-pound German shepherd that endlessly fetched balls in his yard. The canine the former tennis pro and stuntman now calls his best friend is a 15-pound cavalier King Charles spaniel named Kosmo that refuses to chase anything—and Vallot couldn’t be happier. All over L.A. he-men are embracing diminutive dogs without a hint of embarrassment. Not only do they have outsize personalities, but the toy breeds are content in confined spaces—they can make do with a small patch of grass for exercise. They’re also easier to take to social events, as Adrien Brody and Mickey Rourke have demonstrated with their Chihuahuas. Kosmo joins his owner at the Santa Monica photo studio where Vallot is director of operations. Any qualms about squiring what is, after all, a royal lapdog? “I walk him with complete confidence,” says Vallot. “The barista at the studio said to me, ‘You really know how to manly up that dog.’ ” For the guy’s guy, L.A.’s omnipresent “purse” dogs were about as popular as purses, until Angelenos like El Segundo native John Meadows discovered they were just as ready to play hard. Meadows inherited his mother’s nine-pound Yorkshire terrier when she died. “It was weird at first,” says Meadows, who brings Eddie to the parks where he spars with fellow practitioners of savate, the French form of kickboxing. “I still have people who come up to me and say, ‘Really?’ ” Meadows is now such a fan of the miniatures that he seeks them out. “I know how much they’re real dogs.” As a law student, Beverly Hills litigator Tristram Buckley was seeking a dog that would fit his apartment. He’d read about the Pekingese bravado, which is how seven-pound Shelby came into his life. Soon she was accompanying him to class and on runs. “She would be a blur of white feet,” Buckley says of their seven-and-a-half-minute-mile pace. “People would stop and stare.” Today the pair might get a second look as Shelby rides shotgun in her master’s Ferrari. “I was an undergrad at the University of Miami,” he says. “The rage was pit bulls. There’s something wrong when you use a dog to put up a front.” Brad Kriser was struck by how many men with small dogs he saw in L.A. after opening an outpost of his eponymous Chicago-based chain of natural pet supply stores. But “people on the Coast have always been more progressive,” he says. Nor do canines here need ice-tough paws and a heavy coat. Kriser’s own dog, Maggie, is a ten-pound shih tzu-poodle mix that’s gone on many a miles-long hike. “It’s the best of both worlds. You can play ball with this dog, and then it can sit on your chest,” he notes. “No matter what the guys say, they like it.” //
Illustration by Bill Brown