Paws in the Pearl

Portland's Pearl District is an award-winning, internationally recognized leader in urban renewal and a favorite among locals, two- and four-legged alike.
Written by Maia Segura | Photography by Daimian Lix
It was a rainy Saturday morning when we wandered into the urban landscape of the Pearl District in Portland, Oregon. As the photographer and I hoped for the weather to break, we both secretly worried that there would be no dogs to be found and the trip would be a bust. Our worries were unfounded.

The moment we stepped foot on to the curb we were surrounded with pups and their people scurrying through the green-space, socializing on the sidewalk, peeking through a condominium gate. Our canine encounters in the Pearl didn’t waver from there.
To say that the Pearl District is “dog friendly” is a profound understatement. “I think far more businesses are dog friendly than aren’t,” says Sue Miller, vice president of the Pearl District Business Association. “Virtually all of the banks, almost every retailer, art gallery and most restaurants welcome dogs.”

In fact, the area is so completely dog friendly that the business association dedicated the entire May issue of its widely distributed neighborhood magazine, Explore the Pearl, to the experience of urban pets, their owners, and the goods and services available to them in the district. “Dogs have always been a part of the community,” she explains. “So we thought it would be fun.”

The Pearl District is situated just north of downtown Portland in the former 1900’s hub of manufacturing and shipping for the city. As the means of transportation shifted mid-century from river and rail to interstate and air, manufacturers moved out and artists and small retailers moved in. It’s only been in the last 20 years that the Pearl District has come into its own as an urban oasis. In 1997, Hoyt Street Properties sunk $600 million into the 34-acre former site of the Burlington Northern rail yard, producing a plan for 11 residential and retail mixed-use properties with pedestrian open spaces.

From the beginning, Hoyt Street Properties condominiums have been pet friendly. This has been a key attraction for buyers, says Miller. “When people choose to move into the city, giving up their house and yard, a key question is ‘What am I going to do with my pet?’” she says. “We’ve made it such a wonderful environment down here that people find that their pets are actually happier.”

According to Miller, an estimated 30 to 40 percent of condominium owners at Hoyt are dog owners. In the interest of creating harmony between pet and non-pet residents, dogs over 25 lbs are required to pass a Canine Good Citizen test. “We want to make sure that the pets are a welcome addition to the community,” she says.

And they seem to be. Scores of local businesses including retailers, restaurants and galleries welcome pets indoors or provide a water-bowl outside. Of course there is McDuff the shop dog at chic Aubergine. And Tucker takes up residence in A Place in Time, an upscale home gift boutique. For many businesses, the dedication to dogs goes beyond the average dog shopper and shop dog.

Rogue Ales Distillery & Public House offers a full menu to dogs that visit, including burgers and fries, and carob frosted cupcakes. According to Scott Gallagher, “Director of Energy” and marketing at Rogue, “We asked ourselves, ‘Why can’t you have a beer while you’re taking your dog out?’” The answer has ensured that Rogue’s brew pubs have always been dog friendly. A dog specialty menu naturally followed.

Rogue has long integrated canine and company. Brew master John Maier had a black Lab named Brewer, who grew up in the brewery. According to Gallagher, “Brewer became the official CEO of the company because he always had his eye on everybody.” He also served as grand marshal for fundraisers such as Doggie Days where dogs get washed and enter contests to win coveted prizes like “Most Improved” and “Most Excited.”

Brewer passed away in 2006, but is far from forgotten. The annual Brewer Memorial Ale Fest occurs in Newport every May. The event was Oregon’s first inside/outside dog-friendly ale festival. This event benefits Humane Societies of Oregon and is a way that Rogue can give back to the entire animal community on Brewer’s behalf.

But sometimes it is the animal that helps the person in need. Virginia Woof is a dog daycare and boarding facility and the country’s first dog daycare to be used as a job-training facility for homeless youth. Virginia Woof is owned and operated by non-profit Outside In, and was created because “many of our clients have a genuine interest in, and passion for, animals coupled with a dire need for employment.”

The program was designed by local dog daycare owners, veterinarians, business leaders, Outside In staff and board of directors, to focus on practical training and tools to turn ones life around. Upon completion of the intensive job training program, community business partners like Noah’s Arf and Dogstar in the Pearl District provide internship and career opportunities to graduates at a living wage.

For shoppers, the Pearl District is a Mecca for mingling among its many watering holes, and if Portland dogs were to have their own version of a hip martini bar, LexiDog would be it. Once a dog has qualified, based on its social graces, age, shots, and spayed or neutered status, then he or she is invited to join the exclusive guest list. Then for a fee, the dog can drop by, hang out all day, enjoy a play group with his pals and master, or shop in the truly fabulous boutique for a pink Cadillac bed, a ladies' fine dress complete with matching pearls, or a tuxedo. Or further still, a pampered pooch might prefer to enjoy the day spa facilities for a shampoo and "pawdicure" by the onsite D'tails in the Pearl (503.243.6200;, where their policy is "No Fur. No paws. No service."

For the health conscious hound, regular check ups are a must and Pearl Animal Hospital provides just that: complete veterinary services from the first pediatric visit through the senior stages of life. They believe in partnering with pet parents, providing the highest quality medical care with genuine compassion in a safe and comfortable environment.

So it seems on every level the Pearl District is a self-reinforcing community for dogs and their people—where people give back to dogs and dogs give back to people. And where there is plenty of room for everyone to roam.

More Information

1313 NW Kearney; 503.227.0292;
Daycare, boarding, grooming, gifts and adoption services.

LexiDog Boutique & Social Club
416 NW 10th Avenue; 503.243.6200;
Gift, bakery, dog daycare & play groups.

Noah’s Arf
1306 NW 18th Avenue; 503.223.NOAH
Full-service pet care facility.

Virginia Woof
1520 W Burnside; 503.224.5455
Day care & training program.

Jamison Square Park
810 NW 11th Avenue

Tanner Springs
Bordered by Marshall & Northrup, NW 10th & 11th. One square block in-city wetland.

North Park Blocks
W Burnside to NW Glisan between NW 8th & NW Park.
Shady & grassy areas, also featuring William Wegman Dog Bowl fountain.
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