Last month, My Dog’s Cafe and Bar opened on Locke Street. The shop welcomes both two-legged humans and their four-legged friends in to socialize and enjoy coffee and treats.Owner Wendy Perron talks about a chihuahua named Pecan and future plans for the shop.
The recent opening of My Dog’s Café and Bar on Locke Street South gets tails wagging. It is the only coffee shop within one bus ride from campus that allows dogs inside. Unlike the other coffee shops on the street, you won’t see any dogs tied up outside. Instead, they will be inside enjoying Pupcakes and pets.
With the rise in popularity of animal cafes in Toronto, it is not surprising that they are popping up in Hamilton as well. The only other restaurant that allows animals inside is Munchies Café and BARKery, but it is located on the mountain near Lime Ridge Mall and can be quite a trek from campus. Students and pet owners have welcomed the animal interaction a little closer to home.
— My Dog’s Cafe & Bar (@MyDogsCafe) March 6, 2017
Most people would meet the opening of a new café on Locke Street South with eyerolls. The street already has a number of coffee shops, including Democracy, Brown Dog Café and Starbucks. Instead, owner Wendy Perron sees an opportunity to bring something different to the business area. Locke is a popular area for dog walkers, and allowing animals in the store makes for a unique experience for both dog owners and lovers.
Originally from the Toronto area, Perron came to Hamilton to open the shop. Perron’s mother, who has helped her get the business up and running, was familiar with the area. They wanted to capitalize on the growing momentum and success of Locke Street.
For Perron, who was a formerly a print broker, the idea to open up a place for dogs was exciting but just a dream. “Just because I thought it was a good idea didn’t mean that I was going to go ahead with it,” said Perron. It wasn’t until one of her old friends starting talking about opening her own business that she got the push to go ahead with the idea.
After losing her dog of 16 years, Perron got a longhaired chihuahua named Pecan that is now the resident dog of My Dog’s Café and Bar. Usually sitting by the front window, he welcomes everyone that walks through the door with barks. Perron encourages people to interact with Pecan, who loves getting pets and cuddles. Visitors can count on Pecan to be there and ready to play.
Different walks of the world
My Dog’s Café and Bar has been open for less than a month, but the floors are already scratched from all the dogs that have passed through. Perron was surprised how far some people travelled to get to her coffee shop. People from Waterloo, Mississauga, Brantford and Toronto have brought their dogs on their way through Hamilton. One couple from Ottawa stopped on their way west, bringing a board game with them and lounged for a few hours.
“Everybody is so happy coming into this place… If you were to come in on the weekend you would see people talking across the tables and asking about each others dogs and having a conversation. I have never seen anything like that before,” said Perron of the friendly atmosphere.
Animal companionship has been said to be a calming and comforting experience. Research shows that being around dogs can improve mood and decrease stress-related parameters. McMaster’s own therapy dogs provide companionship and relaxation for students studying at libraries during and in KTH. 23 Ontario universities provide Animal Assisted Activities during exam time.
While there is a lack of studies looking at the effect of AAA at Canadian universities, a pilot study by St. John Ambulance found that it to be a de-stressing and positive experience. My Dog’s Café and Bar offers a therapeutic environment in which students can study, as long as they are okay with occasional barking.
“I had a girl who was studying here for a couple of hours. Pecan barks and barks and barks. At one point she asked if she could hold Pecan. When I looked over, she was studying away and Pecan was sleeping on her lap,” said Perron. Other students have come and spent hours rolling around with Pecan on the floor.
Weekends are the busiest, but on off hours the café is quiet and relaxing. “Sometimes it gets into dog park mode a little bit,” Perron admitted. “The hyper dogs just take time to settle in. Everybody seems to know it takes a few minutes for their dog to calm down.”
You do not need to have a dog to visit the café. For students whose landlords don’t allow them to have pets or for those in residence, My Dog’s Café and Bar provides the fix animal lovers need.
Cooking for two
Just as the name suggests, My Dog’s Café and Bar is a coffee shop not only for humans, but for dogs as well. Momma Bear’s Barkery supplies the treats for the dogs while Vintage Coffee on King Street provides the coffee for their owners. Perron is in the process of acquiring a liquor license and expanding the food options to include cheese and meat boards alongside the current decadent treats. She hopes to have the liquor license by the time the weather warms up, planning to make good use of the patio. She also hopes to buy more food from local providers, such as bagels and scones from Locke Street Bakery.
Various rescue organizations have reached out to Perron, and she is excited about partnering up with them to educate the public about the issue. She has currently partnered up with a greyhound rescue to bring dogs by the café on March 26.
As for resident dogs, Perron says that she hopes one day she can get a little girlfriend for Pecan. Until then, Pecan will have to greet visitors to My Dog’s Café and Bar on his own.