The wigs range in price from $18 to 'hundreds of dollars.'
By MADELINE BARO DIAZ
BAY HARBOR ISLANDS, Fla. -- Ruth Regina likes to say her business is going to the dogs, but it's actually just going to their heads.
A wig maker to the stars, Regina is now designing hairpieces for dogs -- braids, curls, and extensions that can be dyed, highlighted and styled to order for pampered pets.
"I just see now that the little dogs are being carried around in Chanel carriers. They're wearing tiaras and sunglasses and visors," she says. "Dogs are just little people in fur coats."
Regina, an eighth-generation wigmaker, got her break during the golden age of television. She was the wig master and make-up artist for "The Jackie Gleason Show," which filmed in Miami Beach from 1962-70. She was also in charge of beauty for the Miss Universe pageant from 1959-72, helping contestants look like they weren't wearing a lot of make-up when they were. Throughout the years, she also did hair and make-up for stars filming movies or television programs in Florida.
At her wig shop in Bay Harbor Islands, there are pictures on the walls of her with those stars, from Judy Garland to Marisa Tomei. The autographed picture from Garland calls her the "wonder worker" and Regina's wig work is displayed on dozens of mannequin heads on the shelves of her store.
Exuding old-fashioned glamour (how old, she won't say), she takes her doggie designs out of a pink wig box and describes each one as if she were advising a human customer.
The "Yappy Hour," a cascade of curls, can be custom made with synthetic or human hair and dyed any color, including pastels. With openings for ears and an elastic band to hold it in place, it's a good choice for hairless dogs, she explains.
The "Peek a Bow Wow" can fall down over part of a dog's face, giving a glamorous look reminiscent of 1940s movie star Veronica Lake. It's a good style for "any dog that has feeling, you know, a sexy dog," she explains.
"There's some dogs that have the come-hither look," she says.
There's also the "Rover R-r-r-rug," straight hair that can be used as bangs, and "Buddy Braids," good for a dog with a little hair since they are held on with clips, Regina says.
She did her first dog hair design years ago for her niece's basset hound, to coordinate with an Easter ensemble. But wigs were not popular for many years, Regina said, except for people with thinning hair, chemotherapy patients and others who needed them.
"The general public for many years were not wearing wigs unless they really had a strong need for it, but now everything has changed," she said. "Wigs are so in. Hairpieces, extensions. It is a very big thing now. ... I thought, well, why not for doggies?"
Regina has not sold the canine hairpieces yet, although she says she has potential customers, like pet shops, lined up.
She figures that "mommies of doggies" who treat their pets like children will be willing to pay the $18 to "hundreds of dollars" that Regina expects to charge for the hairpieces, some of them custom-made.
Eve Huerta, owner of a doggie boutique next door to Regina's wig store, agrees. At her Teacup Couture, she carries accessories for tiny teacup dogs, including sunglasses, hats, jeans, army fatigues, even costumes. She said she's interested in carrying some of Regina's hairpieces in "funky colors."
"I think she's on to something that's really great," she said. "I don't see why it would be different or strange."