These dogs are living the good life in Palm Springs

But Palm Springs is more than just a vacation spot.
1 month before August 2, 2023 at 21:11 Author: Editors Desk Source: CNN:::
Charlie, a standard parti poodle, poses next to a pink Cadillac convertible at his house in Palm Springs, California.
Charlie, a standard parti poodle, poses next to a pink Cadillac convertible at his house in Palm Springs, California.

Photographs by Nancy Baron | Story by Kyle Almond, CNN
Published July 14, 2023

With its warm climate, gorgeous landscape and midcentury-modern buildings, Palm Springs is definitely a vibe.

The California city, a little less than a two-hour drive from Los Angeles, has been a popular getaway for over a century now — a relaxing desert oasis in the Coachella Valley.

But Palm Springs is more than just a vacation spot.

For many, including these dogs, it’s home.

/ Happy, a pointer/pitbull mix, lounges on a couch at his Palm Springs home.

/ Mingus Shpall, a mix between an Australian Shepherd and a Catahoula Leopard Dog, visits a home in Palm Springs.

Photographer Nancy Baron is a part-time resident — a Chicago native who moved to LA, fell in love with Palm Springs and now tries to get there whenever she can.

“As iconic as it is internationally, it really is a small American town,” she said. “And you get that idea when you’re living there.”

She has authored three photo books about Palm Springs, with the latest being “Palm Springs: Modern Dogs at Home.” The colorful project shows off many of the city’s midcentury-modern homes — with the dogs who live there serving as the tour guides.

“Palm Springs has a very comforting feel about it — between the climate and the mystical hot springs running underground and the beautiful sunlight and the architecture — and dogs are part of that,” Baron said.

/ Fanny, a Jack Russell terrier, floats on a pool at her home in Palm Springs. Her owners were recent transplants from New York.

 / Rocky, another Jack Russell, lives near the Seven Lakes Country Club, one of Palm Springs’ first golf communities. Former President Dwight D. Eisenhower hit a hole-in-one there in the 1960s.

The idea for the book came when Baron was working on her earlier Palm Springs books, “The Good Life” and “The Good Life Goes On.” She would be often be photographing someone’s home when a dog would meander into the frame.

“A lot of times the homeowner would say, ‘Oh, I’ll get him or her out,’ and I was like, ‘No, just leave it,’ ” she recalled. “And I realized when I went back that the dogs really added life and warmth to the photos.”

It also was a great way to show off how dogs are beloved by many of the city’s residents — and how close-knit the neighborhoods can be.

“Everyone knows the names of everyone’s dogs, what their status is,” she said. “They’re members of the community.”

/ Abbey, an English setter, sits below a portrait of herself. “They found the bed; it’s repurposed,” photographer Nancy Baron said. “They found it on the street.”

This familiarity made it easy for Baron to photograph so many subjects. She didn’t have to go looking; people would recommend their neighbors and put in a good word, and the pattern would keep repeating.

If she saw a unique house or a dog and didn’t know who lived there, chances are she knew someone who did.

She was driving one day when she saw someone walking their dog next to a beautiful pink Cadillac.

“I called a guy who lives in that area and I said, ‘What’s the deal with this Cadillac?’ And they said: ‘Oh, that’s Carlos. I’ll text you his phone number.’ And within 15 minutes, I’m at the house shooting the scene. That’s how Palm Springs is,” Baron said.

/ Cooper, a basset hound, stands by a pool in the Little Tuscany neighborhood. “If there are houses (in Palm Springs) without pools, I haven’t seen them,” Baron said. “If it’s a condo or an apartment, they still have pools.”

 / Ruby, left, and Pearl are Mal-Shis, a mix between a Maltese and a Shih Tzu. “This is an amazing condo complex,” Baron said. “Very vintage and well-preserved.”

It also helps that people usually love to show off their pets.

Many of the dogs in the book are rescues, including Jimmy, the Jack Russell/Shih Tzu mix who’s on the cover.

“The Palm Springs Animal Shelter is amazing,” Baron said. “It’s a no-kill shelter. And the Friends of the Palm Springs Animal Shelter is a really great community.”

Baron’s photo shoots were typically quick, no more than a half hour. The dogs made it rather easy for her — which may be a good thing, considering she’s actually allergic to them.

“The dogs, I have to say, are very well-behaved,” she said. “They’re happy, you know, they’re chill. They’re living in Palm Springs!”

 / Jimmy, a Jack Russell/Shih Tzu mix, is on the cover of Baron’s book. “The colors are very much Palm Springs colors,” Baron said. “It’s all very vintage. One of the dads of Jimmy is a book-cover designer. He designed the cover.” 


/ Roxie, left, and Johnny — a pair of Jack Russell mixed breeds — live in a cul-de-sac where some filming took place for the recent movie “Don’t Worry Darling.” Their owner told Baron, “All they want to do is run out of the house.” She replied, “Well then let's get them running out of the house!” The photo became the back cover of her book.

Baron dedicated her book to Ella, her English Shepherd who is the first dog pictured inside. Ella unfortunately is no longer with us.

“She was my one and only, and she was just the best dog. Very obedient,” Baron said. “She never went on the furniture, and for the photo I asked her to come up onto the sofa. She kept looking at me like, are you sure?”

Each photo in the book includes quotes from each dog’s owner, talking not only about their four-legged bundles of joy, but also the homes they take so much pride in.

“It’s really meant to be not just about the dogs but about where the dogs live and how it goes together in terms of creating this feeling of comfort,” Baron said.

 / Ella, Baron’s dog, enjoys a rare seat on the sofa. 


/ Lillian, an Australian Cattle Dog, and Rena, a black Labrador retriever, hang out in a vintage Chevrolet Corvair. This house is across the street from Baron, and the homeowner collects Corvairs.

Baron calls Palm Springs the “mecca” for midcentury-modern design, with its clean, simple lines and focus on functionality. Each entry in her book also lists the architects of each home and when it was built.

“In the immediate post-war years, this group of American architects were taking European influences and adapting them to the desert,” she said. “The houses are meant to have an inside-outside flow and also appear to be part of the landscape.”

Chris Menrad, who lives with Brick the Boston terrier, explains this feeling further in Baron’s book.

“I love the seamlessness of the interior and exterior of the home and how happy the architecture makes you feel when you are inside but also constantly aware of Mother Nature outside,” Menrad said. “Being in the house and in Palm Springs is a tonic for the soul.”

 / Brick, a Boston terrier, sits next to a collection of architectural pottery outside his house. It happened organically. “We didn’t tell him to do that,” Baron said. 


/ Gizmo, a mixed breed rescue, relaxes at home. Her owner is very much into anything vintage, including music, Baron said.

Through August 12, photos from all three of Baron’s Palm Springs books are being exhibited in Dallas at the Photographs Do Not Bend Gallery.

Her photos reflect a Palm Springs that is bright, cheerful and vintage-looking. “Although they’re contemporary, they could be any time,” she said.

And if you feel a little envious of these puppers, you’re not alone.

“They do have it good,” Baron said. “They have it as good as everyone else does who is living this lifestyle.”

 / Tippi, a boxer/bulldog mix, visits the home of Brick, the Boston terrier.


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