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What It’s Like Inside America’s First Dog Cafe

Say "hi" to Chris!
Say “hi” to Chris!

Want to spend an hour petting a dozen adorable dogs, while sipping on a chai latte? Well, your chance is now here, in the form the first dog cafe in America. The best part is that it’s right here in Silver Lake.

I visited the Dog Cafe, which had its grand opening on Thursday. It might be a bit hard to find at first because it’s nestled in a strip mall, but once you see the cheery canine-sitting-in-a-coffee-cup logo, you can’t miss it. The space is broken up into two separate rooms, one of which is a play pen for the dogs, and the other that serves as the cafe. The rooms are all painted in a chill teal color. Signs that say things like “Relax” adorn the walls.

Inside the cafe.
Inside the cafe.

A $10 ticket gets you in to play with the pups for 55 minutes and a drink from their cafe, which includes everything from pour-over Americanos to green tea lattes and lemonade. I suggest you book a reservation before you come in because the wait list for walk-ins could very well be a long one, which was the case when I was there.

Start off in the cafe, where you check in at the back of the room, sign a waiver and order your coffee. Inside you’ll find cute apparel, like baseball tees that say, “Coffee cups and rescue pups,” as well as Grounds and Hounds Coffee Co. and Dogs Drink Coffee coffee beans. A portion of the sales of coffee bags goes towards animal rescues.

Shrek, the Shih Tzu sweetheart.
Shrek, the Shih Tzu sweetheart.

Then it’s doggo-petting time! There are several friendly employees there who are happy to talk to you about the dogs, that are all up for adoption. One employee told me they rescue dogs from being euthanized at other LA shelters , and often take in dogs that don’t have a high chance of being rescued, whether it be because they’re shy around potential foster parents, are older or have medical injuries. They keep it at a max of around 12 dogs at a time, and when a dog gets adopted, then they’ll bring in another one from a shelter. Spending time with them helps them socialize with humans, and at the same time they get to socialize with other dogs.

So many doggos.
So many doggos.

There were a variety of sweet dogs of all ages and conditions. I spent time petting pups like Twinkie, a shy 7-year-old small Cairn Terrier; to Chris, a 3-year-old Papillon/Chihuahua who liked sitting in laps; and Oreo, a gentle sweetheart who is a blind, 15-year-old Poodle mix.

The selfie station.
The selfie station.

For all your #selfie needs, there’s even a selfie station in the back of the room, where you can pick up a dog to take a photo with you. It gets sent to you for free via email or text. I was a little apprehensive about just picking up a dog, because I felt some of them where skittish and I didn’t want to rattle them. An employee pointed out to me the dogs that wouldn’t mind getting picked up, and then put Oreo in my arms, and I got to cradle him like a baby.

And take this set of photos with him:

Hi, Oreo!
Say “cheese,” Oreo!

The Dog Cafe is the brainchild of Sarah Wolfgang (BTW her hair is the same teal color as the walls), who took 2 to 2-1/2 years working on the cafe to bring it to fruition. She tells me that the idea came from growing up in South Korea and visiting dog cafes there, and later becoming very involved in animal rescues. She feels that dogs need to be spotlighted in a better way than at shelters, and that dogs aren’t able show their true personality when they are caged up. Here, they have lots of room to run around and play.

"Give me a home, please."
“Give me a home, please.”

As for why she’s the first one to ever have a dog cafe in America, Wolfgang thinks it’s because it’s “hard to implement with the Health Department.” But through “negotiation, calling and fighting,” she was able to finally get the Department to come to an understanding about what she was doing. It helps that the cafe and dog area are separated, for health code reasons.

The Dog Cafe is in this plaza right where Virgil and Temple meet.
The Dog Cafe is in this plaza right where Virgil and Temple meet.

What’s perhaps the most surprising thing is that the Dog Cafe has had a soft opening for the last four months. The Dog Cafe was open this whole time right under our noses! They didn’t put up any ads, and some days the cafe would even be completely empty, Wolfgang says. But they laid low so they could iron out all the kinks out before they let the masses in.

And now that hordes of people are making their way to the Dog Cafe, I have a feeling that they’re going to have a hard time not adopting these beautiful dogs. After all, who can say no to this little girl?

Lisa, being cute and standing like a human.
Lisa, being cute and standing like a human.

DETAILS:

The Dog Cafe is located at 240 N. Virgil Ave., Unit 13, Silver Lake. (213) 810-2872.

Tuesday to Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

$10 admission includes petting dogs and a drink. Make a reservation online here.

 

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