Wednesday, April 13, 2011



Look! Under that woman’s arm! It’s a dog! It’s a purse! It’s a dog purse!

If you’ve been out and about and ever happened to see a woman carrying a cute little furry stuffed animal slung from her shoulder, chances are it was a handbag. That’s right—an actual purse, probably holding a cell phone, credit cards, keys and lipstick. And yes, I am one of those women who often carry such a purse. From schnauzer to poodle to schnoodle or pug, a terrier as a carrier is so fun to hug!

And hug them I do. I love all my doggy handbags, and have been collecting them for several months now. Fashioned as realistic (and not-so-realistic) breeds, the handbags have a zipper down the back to hold essentials, and a removable strap/leash for carrying. What’s best about these particular brands is that they are for ladies. I’m thrilled that it is finally socially acceptable for a grown woman to tote a stuffed animal around in public. (Now if they’d only figure out a way to do the same with dolls.)

I discovered these purses on eBay while browsing stuffed animal auctions. I had already acquired some dog purses from garage sales and thrift stores, but they were for little girls—fun to “play” with but best left at home. But these purses online were bigger, more real-looking and well-made, and for grown-ups! Brands like Puppy at Heart, Fuzzy Nation/Love on a Leash, Doggy Bag…I had never seen these before—I guess they were sold at places I never shopped at. So I kept an eye out for good deals online, buying most of my collection used. I even found a couple in the 49-cent stuffed animal bin at the thrift store. While some may donate their used purses to charity, many other women are still adding to their collections, having fun and making a fashion statement as well.

“Why not have a purse that is shaped like something neat instead of a square that slides off your lap all the time?” says Dori, of San Diego. Dori, who sold a few purses to me online, has a large collection of her own as well as auctions off some of her duplicates. She discovered Fuzzy Nation purses in a catalog several years ago, falling in love with the dachshund. She didn’t buy it, “but I thought about it over the years and wished I had.” She said.

“A few years back I walked into our local Mervyn’s Store and there were these adorable Yorkie Puppy at Heart purses,” she remembers. “They only had three left. I walked around carrying one for almost an hour and put him back. Boy was I thrilled the next time I went in and they were 50% off! I bought a Yorkie and LOVED it! After that I got a Boston Terrier and then it just snowballed. Now I have all sorts. I really like them all.”

Dori usually carries a Doggy Bag Mi-Ki, and admits that women who use pooch purses should be prepared for double-takes and comments.

“My mom carries a pug and always gets stopped,” she says. “I have one friend that always makes me leave mine in the car because of the attention it gets. It is all in good fun!”

In fact, Dori’s auction listings include a humorous description she penned cautioning potential buyers about what they may experience.

“If you don’t like a lot of attention, this is not the purse for you,” she writes. “Trust me, this purse will get attention! I carry a dog purse and everywhere I go people always say, ‘I thought that was a real dog!’ Gets embarrassing when they have been talking baby talk to your dog, I mean purse, for the last ten minutes. And don’t even THINK of accidentally slamming its little stuffed leg in the car door and yanking it out by the strap without someone yelling, ‘Stop abusing that poor animal, the authorities are on the way!’ Everyone will get a laugh and a smile out of it in the end!”

In her description she also tells buyers about how she likes to dress her handbags in little t-shirts to match her outfit. “The t-shirts cover the zipper, and, well, it’s fun to dress it up! Who hasn’t looked at those doggy rain slickers and matching hats and thought, ‘How cute!’ When rainy weather hits, you can run right out and get one for your puppy purse! Collect all the different breeds and you can start asking friends and family, ‘Which one says I am a take-charge kind of gal, the Pug or the Boston Terrier?’ ‘Which one says I am good for the loan, the Spaniel or the Yorkie?’ ‘Which one says I will never, ever grow up, the Chihuahua, Mi-Ki, Lab, or Maltese?’

I, too, have real dog clothes and sparkly pink collars for my plush pets. And indeed, part of the fun is feeling like a kid again. But, since the majority of women use “regular” purses, it does take a certain personality or mood to go out in public sporting a stuffed canine. Dori has no trouble, because, in her words, she is “kinda kooky and a bit gaudy”, and so can pull it off. “Some people are really just too shy or afraid of what someone will think to step outside the box,” she adds.

I would have to say I’m more on the traditional side and have never considered myself a fashionista, but I must be just kooky enough for these purses to appeal to me. It also lets me feel like I have a real live dog without all the responsibility. I love dogs, but with two cats (which is one cat too many), it just isn’t feasible at this time to own another pet. Not to mention my husband doesn’t want a dog at all. So for now I am content with my furry friends, free to select whichever breed I’d like to play with—I mean carry—that day, or hour. And, as Dori agrees, they feel real good under your arm. I love snuggling my sweet widdle doggy woggy wherever I go. For Dori, it’s soothing to fuss with her dog’s fur if feeling anxious in a crowd or waiting in lines. Another more serious plus, she has observed, is that these purses can almost serve as guard-dogs. “At first glance it does look like a real dog,” she notes. “I have noticed on a number of occasions unsavory men walk towards me at night in a parking lot, glance at it and move on.” I had never considered that benefit, but as I joked to Dori, they either believe it’s a real dog, or they’re thinking, “If she’s wacky enough to carry a stuffed animal as a purse, no telling what else she might do, so I better scram!”

And so, like Paris Hilton clutching her Chihuahua, we ordinary people can also enjoy the perks of pets as accessories. With over 30 breeds in the Fuzzy Nation line alone, they even come in far-out variations such as metallic gold and silver Chihuahuas, paisley Pugs and tweed Terriers. There are a couple of cats, too. Puppy at Heart, which is no longer made, also produced doggy gloves, scarves, slippers, and coin purses. Fuzzy Nation makes other doggy-related products as well, including jewelry and keychains. In most cases I prefer Fuzzy Nation/Love on a Leash for their higher quality; these purses have designer silk lining, patented posable legs and a signature jeweled paw. Correspondingly, Fuzzy Nation is more expensive—ranging from about $25 to well over $100 (although I paid under $20 for most of mine, and some were under $10). Some bags hold more than others, and it takes getting used to carrying the bare essentials. I usually stash the rest of my stuff in a bigger bag left in the car. I figure, how often does one need nail clippers, hand lotion and aspirin in a store? Dori has even altered some of her doggies to provide more space, but only on the more inexpensive brands.

“I love the Puppy at Heart bags because I don’t worry about them like a collectable Fuzzy Nation,” she says. “I sometimes even slit the bottom of the Puppy at Heart pouch and take the stuffing out to have more room inside. I would NEVER do that to a Fuzzy Nation.”

As for comments, I usually don’t get that many. I’ve often had my little granddaughter with me and people probably think it’s a toy for the baby. But a few have offered compliments and remarked about how “it looks like a real dog!” And, just like real dogs, some are more high-maintenance than others; the short-haired breeds such as the Boston Terrier and Jack Russell are easy to take care of, whereas the more shaggy Shih-tzu, Yorkie and the like become hopelessly messed up if you so much as look at them.

But I like fussing with and fixing up my little pets. Dori even uses hers to lighten the mood during times of family stress. “I tease my sister at every opportunity by saying that I will be right there as soon as I comb out my dog purse or as soon as I dress my dog purse. It drives her nuts! It is those small things in life that just make it all worthwhile,” she chuckles.

Believe it or not, there are some who dare to poke fun or think it odd that a grown woman should carry a doggy purse. Most of my friends and family said they wouldn’t use one, “but if you like them, I say go for it!” encouraged one friend. A fashion columnist online said that while puppies make pretty purses, she also felt that if she and her co-workers actually walked around town carrying one, they would appear eccentric, not in a glamorous way “but more in an insane way.” She was certain, however, that there are those out there “who can walk the dog and look bitch’n’”.

Another person, Alicia, responded to a column by saying the purses “trouble her greatly.”

“I have a problem with any type of purse that you would have to un-zip the back of an animal to get to your things,” she wrote. “That’s just slightly creepy to me.”

Well Alicia, I think you should zip it, because I say these purses are fun, functional, serve as a unique fashion accessory, and most of all are cute and cuddly! And as long as they are made for grown ladies, we can wear one with our head held high, while still remaining a kid at heart. And that is what life is all about.

In the meantime, I’m off to hug my pug!

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