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Familiar Faces & Their Pampered Pets

Bella Rue with Araceli Kopiloff-Zimmer. photo by Ursula Ruhl (click for larger version)
May 09, 2012
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Rue Lafayette/Bella Rue

Dressed to the nines in her Chanel outfit, which wouldn't be complete without three strands of pearls, Bella Rue – a 1-year-old Boston terrier – sits at a coffee table in Rue Lafayette sipping her morning cappuccino.

"She gets really angry if she doesn't get her coffee in the morning," said her human counterpart, Araceli Kopiloff-Zimmer, who owns the café and antique boutique in Lafayette Square.

Regulars to Rue Lafayette love Bella Rue, and she's even drawn visitors from several states away, her owner said.

Kopiloff-Zimmer started bringing Bella to work with her when she was a puppy, and it wasn't long before Bella became a phenomenon. She greets people at the door, keeps the crumbs off the floor and does all the shopping for the café. And on the weekends she's a singer in the band. Whenever Miss Jubilee plays at Rue Lafayette, Bella makes her voice heard.

"She literally gets up on the table and sings at the top of her lungs," Kopiloff-Zimmer said. "She's a little clown. She needs to be in the action all the time."

She even has her own menu items including signature cocktails – Bella-ini and Berry-Bella – and the Bella Rue sandwich. She loves fashion and has a designer line of pet toys available for sale at the boutique. Bella has a Facebook page, too.

"This was never my intention – it just sort of happened," Kopiloff-Zimmer said.

Bella's next big thing is a trip to Paris, where she is scheduled to meet other dogs who work in cafés. But right now, Bella lets out a bark. When Kopiloff-Zimmer asks her if she wants more coffee, Bella's ears perk up and she starts licking her lips – definitely a "Yes!"

Jeff and Randy Vines with their shop cat, Frankie. photo by Diana Linsley (click for larger version)

At STL-Style on Cherokee Street, owners Jeff and Randy Vines run all business decisions past their shop cat, Frankie.

"We consider her our boss," said Randy Vines, co-owner of the shop that sells T-shirts, totes and a wide variety of merchandise sporting uniquely St. Louis slogans. "No decision is made without her. We always think, 'Will this fly with Frankie?'"

The 2-year-old Calico has made STL-Style her home since the Vines brothers took her in a year and a half ago after a friend found her in an alley.

She's been living the good life ever since. Although her apartment is in the basement of STL-Style, Frankie is a fixture on the main floor of the shop where she gives customers a friendly greeting. She welcomes newbies to the shop, but also has her regulars who come to visit.

"We have people who come in just to see the cat – not to shop, but to see the cat," Randy Vines said.

Frankie's friendliness and irresistible charm have helped boost business for the Vines brothers on more than one occasion. She loves to sit in the window, looking longingly at people passing by.

"She makes for a great window display," Jeff Vines said. "She invites people in."

When Frankie's not busy mingling with STL-Style customers, she can often be found playing in the discount clothing bin and T-shirt cubby holes or curled up napping on a City of St. Louis messenger bag. Frankie's other favorite activities include playing with dreidels and destroying furniture, Jeff Vines said. Destructive behavior aside, they couldn't live without her.

"She's queen of the castle," Randy Vines said.

Kelly Jackson and LaRue. photo by Diana Linsley (click for larger version)
Kelly Jackson & LaRue

Kelly Jackson, weekend news anchor on KSDK (Channel 5) and founder of Aarff.com (a company that caters to older dogs and cats), loves her sweet little 3-year-old LaRue, who is a Lhasa Apso, Maltese and possibly part Shih Tzu mix.

"She's really sweet and has a lot of personality," Jackson said. "She is the greatest little companion, and she's been a godsend."

LaRue – who also goes by LaLa, Rue or Baby Girl – came into Jackson's life a little over a year ago not long after her 14-year-old dog had passed away.

"I had lost my dog a month before and I saw her and thought, 'She's for me,'" Jackson said. "Every morning at 6 a.m. she sits on the bed and looks at me. We walk around Lafayette Square Park, then she has her 'Diva Breakfast,' which is sometimes a scrambled egg, then she'll work with me since I work at home and then we take another walk about 11 a.m.," Jackson said. "I take her everywhere."

LaRue particularly likes visiting their neighborhood café, Rue Lafayette, to meet with the shop's famous Boston terrier named Bella. Jackson calls LaRue her little circus dog because she's full of jumps and turns and leaps. She's also sociable and fearless.

"She's a lot like me," Jackson said.

Left Bank Books co-owner Jay Steele with Spike. photo by Diana Linsley (click for larger version)
Left Bank Books

Spike is the boss at Left Bank Books in the Central West End.

His silhouette is even the shop's logo, affixed to T-shirts, bags and other merchandise. Although Spike loves to lay around in the "Used Books" section, his shop duties keep him plenty busy. He can often be found helping shelve the newest arrivals, filing paperwork, greeting customers, screening job candidates and choosing what children's books to recommend on his "Staff Picks" page on the bookstore's website.

"He's pretty engaged in what's going on," Left Bank Books co-owner Kris Kleindienst said of the 8-year-old Spike.

Left Bank Books employee Jonesey Johnson added: "He's part of the life of the store. I think he helps people feel at home."

Although Johnson absolutely adores Spike, she was quick to point out the fact that he thinks he's all that. "He's such a sweet boy, but he's beautiful and he knows it," she said.

Sweet as Spike is, his co-workers and owners say he can also be a bit bossy.

"He determines if people are going to get hired, things have to get the Spike seal of approval and he constantly supervises us – he definitely runs this place," Johnson said.

Left Bank Books took in Spike as a kitten after finding him in a nearby alley. He has since become so popular he's even garnered awards such as "Bookstore Cat of the Year," at BookExpo of America last month. He's also been named in the Top 10 "Excellent Bookstore Cats" by Mental Floss.

Clayton Mayor Linda Goldstein and Andy. photo by Max Bouvatte (click for larger version)
Clayton Mayor Linda Goldstein

Clayton Mayor Linda Goldstein can be seen "walking" her Ragdoll cat, Andy, in front of her house every morning. Andy, a beautiful 6-year-old traditional Ragdoll, lets his owner do the walking.

"He takes 'walks' in front of the house every morning – we carry him," Goldstein said.

Andy also loves to hop on top of his "petting chair" – a chair at the head of the dining room table – so his owners will take notice and proceed to pet him. His sibling, Ringo, also has his own petting chair. Goldstein describes Andy as the alpha male out of the two, while Ringo, a 4-year-old Lynx-style Ragdoll, provides the household with comic relief.

Andy and Ringo love to display what Goldstein calls classic Ragdoll behavior – flopping down on the floor and rolling on their backs in an attempt for tummy rubs. "They just sort of flop and roll," she said. "They lay on their back and want their belly rubbed. They're a lot of fun."

Kramer gets a hug from Dawn Bell. photo by Diana Linsley (click for larger version)
Pets In the City/Kramer

At Pets in the City, it's all about Kramer – a 17-year-old coal black cat with green eyes who thinks he's all that and then some.

"This is the king of the world – or at least he thinks he is," Pets in the City manager Dawn Bell said. "He's spoiled rotten."

Kramer, who also goes by Chunky Monkey, has become an icon at the pet store located on South 12th Street in Soulard. He has his own Facebook page and T-shirts that read, "I'm an official cat nip dealer for Kingpin Kramer."

Kramer likes to be lazy, but he's also pretty helpful around the shop. He not only greets customers at the door, but shows them around the shop and helps them choose what to buy. "His favorite thing is waiting on customers. He likes to help them shop," Bell said.

He also inspects their purchases before they go out the door. He's outgoing, talkative and friendly. Kramer works as a model for the store's latest pet clothing line, gives the best pet toys his official stamp of approval and supervises day-to-day operations. "He's got more personality than any creature I've ever been around," Bell said. "And he's got more Facebook friends than I do."

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