Collar of art – Terry Gonzales makes walking the dog a style statement

Gonzales at Malaga Cove Plaza with Torrance Memorial Hospital’s therapy dog, Finley, a Havanese.

Gonzales at Malaga Cove Plaza with Torrance Memorial Hospital’s therapy dog, Finley, a Havanese. Photos courtesy of Terry Gonzales

by William Foss 

Imagine you are walking through the South Coast Botanic Garden. You brought your dog. You can do that on the last Sunday of the month. Up ahead you see a bright blue pop-up and on it are the words, Art of a Dog. 

Here you’ll find dog collars studded with glittering Swarovski crystals, and handcrafted dog leases, all bearing a metal charm displaying a heart topped by a crown. They are the work of Redondo Beach artist and businesswoman Terry Gonzales.

“It was a childhood dream of mine to do something involving dogs,” she said. “Initially, I wanted to be a veterinarian, but that didn’t work out. I spent over 20 years in the beauty products industry instead. But I still wanted to surround myself with dogs and do something for them, that was the dream.”

The Art of A Dog came out of the age of COVID, when many people were rethinking their careers. Distributing beauty products for people came to a halt when women were wearing masks instead of make-up. 

Perry lives near Terranea Resort and is donning one of Gonzales’s crown prince collars with charm.

“I was talking with my best friend, and we were saying, ‘What do we want to do for the rest of our lives?’ And I wanted to be hands-on with dogs, and hear people’s stories about their dogs, and everyone was getting dogs during COVID – the dog adoption places were actually running low, which was great – lots of dogs got homes and love. So, this was the right time to start this business.”

These are not collars and leashes that you buy at chain stores – it’s really more like elegant but functional jewelry. Most of the pieces are designed to order. Dog owners select the materials and look, Terry does the rest.

“I don’t want to just do this by e-commerce – it’s about the individual dog and individual owner. I like to color-match the collar with the dog’s coat, have it the right width to look perfect, make the dogs look their best.” 

About half the purchasers are men, whose dog collars feature steel or bronze decorations. A ‘vegan’ leather is an option for people who are allergic to tanned leather or don’t want to buy animal-derived products.

The image of a heart topped by a crown on the charm has a special meaning to Gonzales, and to the many dog owners who outfit their furry family members with the jewelry. “It’s a symbol of the loyalty and love of a dog. Many people have them engraved with the dog’s name or things like ‘Best in Breed’ – whatever people want. Some of them are for dogs that have already gone to doggie heaven and are worn by the people who remember them.” 

And yes, some owners get matching jewelry, so that they can have the same style as their pooch. Will there soon be earrings for people to match their pup’s style? “No,” Gonzales said firmly. “It isn’t about people, it’s all about the dog.” 

Some people do buy her collars and wear them as bracelets or ask for human-sized necklaces that will match their dogs. She’ll make those, but there won’t be a clothing line for people.

All of the materials are locally sourced. “I don’t want to just buy things from China and put them together. To make the charms with the crown I found a husband-and-wife jeweler who do custom casting and plating in L.A., so it’s all American-made.” 

Gonzales also dog-sits. “I’m surrounded by dogs all the time, so I’m already living my dream.”

She still has the collar and charm of her first dog, a chow (one of her favorite breeds). It’s a simple blue tag with the name Princess on it. “I will always remember how much I loved that dog,” she said.

What about jewelry for cats or hamsters? “No, just dogs – that’s my passion. People have bought them for cats, and that’s OK – but I’m all about the dogs.”

Soon there will be a website, and a site on Etsy. Gonzales admits she isn’t very tech-savvy, so she’s getting help with setting those up. She also has some ideas for new products that she won’t disclose right now. “I don’t want to grow too big, though. That would lose something. But maybe in a few years I might also have a dog spa or grooming salon, something with every aspect of caring for dogs.” 

She has had her pop-up booth at the Torrance Memorial Hospital charity event and several dog shows, including the famous one in Beverly Hills. “People see the jewelry and want it for their dogs. It sells itself. It isn’t expensive and it’s unique.” 

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