Where the Good Dogs Go

Holding service to high standards, Bad Dog Frida adds color to canine care.

Holding service to high standards, Bad Dog Frida adds color to canine care.

On a bright summer day on Madison’s east side, while you sit outside enjoying a meal at Monty’s or on your way to a show at the Barrymore, you might notice a bright little storefront tucked in next to the theater, with a friendly logo and the name Bad Dog Frida skipping over the entryway. It’s not a big store, but, like its clientele both two- and four-legged, it has a huge heart.

It’s a whimsical little business that seeks to provide “really cool things for good dogs and their people.” The owners, Sue Hunter and Carmen Alcalde, began the business as an online venture and jumped at the opportunity to expand into a storefront space on Atwood Avenue. Sue has a background in social work and was born in the Atwood area, so starting a business there was a little like coming home.

Carmen is a transplant from Seattle, where she worked for years at a humane society providing animal adoption counseling. The impetus for the store came from her, as she felt Madison lacked the unique dog stores she was accustomed to on the West Coast. Their complementary backgrounds make them ideal for quality service and knowledge for both dogs and their owners. They agree that they have also “learned a lot from being dog owners ourselves,” and love to talk to dog owners about the things they have learned from their pets, from simple stories to practical advice.

Bad Dog Frida has a little bit of everything a dog owner might need, from food and treats, collars, toys and beds for the canines, to t-shirts, art and books for the humans. A great deal of their stock is chosen with sustainability in mind—they even have very affordable, biodegradable tote bags to use instead of plastic, and they carry a number of “green” products. They have a lot of work by local artists, authors and suppliers, including several useful books on dog training by renowned local trainer Patricia McConnell, a rotating selection of dog-themed art by local artists, and “Bark Angels” bandanas ingeniously designed by a young girl from the neighborhood. Sue and Carmen keep up on all the latest advances in canine nutrition and health, and they work hard to ensure that all of the products they offer are of the highest quality. Fortunately, they’ve also found some suppliers who do this in fun and creative ways, including ice cream, cookies and cupcakes designed to taste great while still being healthy.

Most importantly, Bad Dog Frida is more than just a store; it’s also a community space. They sponsor a different rescue group each quarter, highlighting the group on their website and donating a certain amount of their profit for the quarter to that group. Members of rescue groups come in and give talks about specific breeds or shelters and let the public interact with rescue dogs. Bad Dog Frida also has a monthly Coffee Hound Hour, a social for dogs to meet one another and let their owners mingle as well, and workshops on topics such as nutrition, acupuncture, health and behavior.

Sue and Carmen’s passion for dogs is evident in the meticulous care they put into every aspect of their business, from the products they carry to the events they host. Sue says, “I love the store being a resource to the community, having a sense of community. People come in and tell us stories about their pets and keep us updated on how their animals are doing.” Carmen laughs and interjects, “Yeah, we recognize the dogs who come in and know their names, but not always necessarily the names of their owners.” Rest assured, though; if you stop by this cheery store (with or without your dog), you will be impressed.