Pleasanton Weekly

Column - November 4, 2011

Naked dogs and more

by Jeb Bing

It wasn't Madison Square Garden or the Westminster Kennel Club dog show, but it was sure fun to be a judge at a significantly downsized hometown version here in downtown Pleasanton. The event last Friday night, held in the backyard gardens of A Touch of Health Day Spa on St. Mary Street, was a fundraiser for Valley Humane Society, which only a few months ago was nearly out of funds and faced with closing. Today, with former Murphy's Paw owner Melanie Sadek as its new executive director and an active, involved board of directors chaired by Lori Rice, the organization has not only bounced back into guarded financial health but is also pursuing new opportunities to raise public awareness of what it does on behalf of our four-legged friends.

The first annual Howl-o-ween bash showed off the organization, its management team and its 300 volunteers in a festive event, with dogs (and their owners) dressed in outfits ranging from a purple butterfly to firefighter to a 1950s girl. Working with City Council members Cheryl Cook-Kallio and Jerry Thorne and Attorney Philip Vermont, the Humane Society's general counsel, I made quick decisions on dogs being paraded before us in six categories: cutest, best duo, most creative, naked (the dog, not the owner), best dressed and dog-owner look-alike. Jeanie Reitzel won that one with her little dog Daisey dressed as a butterfly -- a decision that was a real credit for Daisey, to be sure.

Certainly the most creative was Lola, a dog that was dressed as Park Place and positioned n the middle of a card table-size Monopoly board. Natalie Bianco won in the "Best Named" contest with her recently rescued Chihuahua mixed breed "Foster." Another Daisy (with that spelling) was chosen as "Best Dressed," a super hero gal dog with blue bows in her fur arranged by owner Paula Savlnier. One of my favorites was a small dog dressed as a 1950s girl and owned by Cher Oreo, which is no doubt why they named the dog Cookie. Ken Horton, dressed in his firefighter clothes, who with his wife Veronica owns A Touch of Health, won in the Best Duo category with his large dog Sam.

Prizes ranging from Murphy's Paw $25 gift cards to water bottles donated by Pet Food Express went to the winners and to higher bidders of table prizes. They included tickets to ski areas and San Jose's Winchester Mystery House with a grand prize from an anonymous donor of a seven-day cruise in the Caribbean going to Frances Hewitt for her dog Cabo, the night's grand champion.

Now for that call from the Westminster Kennel folks for a judge's spot at their next New York show. Of course, that assignment would require a tux, which was not a requirement of Sadek at her Valley Humane Society event.

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