Friday, July 23, 2010

"Yappy" Hour at the Hotel Derek

No creature had ever been happier to be any place than Raleigh was to be inside the Hotel Derek, attending a cocktail party with a titillating assortment of his very own species.

I tried to impart upon him the necessity to be “cool”. I know he’s capable of it. He feigns “cool” quite naturally when circumstances are ideal. For instance with babies, smitten little girls and adult humans who take an intellectual interest in his breed, size and unique color scheme. His manner is one of patient - yet indifferent - compliance with the boring wishes of others. He is as aloof as a well-bred teenager forced to endure the humiliation of being seen in public with his mother.

But the dimly lit, modernistic, finger-food and designer-cocktail banquet room was the antithesis of ideal circumstance.

As we stood at the top of the three carpeted steps leading into the venue, me in four-inch heels, Raleigh noticed at once that he was not the only canine in attendance. He went off like the fizz of a well-shaken champagne bottle. The only thing that kept him from leaping straight into the thick of the action - forgoing the steps completely - was a well placed pinch collar and my practiced ability to bend at the knees, widen my stance and lean my full weight opposite the pull of the leash. It was a feat I had never before attempted in real “girl” shoes.

“Easy!” I growled at him grabbing the hand rail just in time to keep from skidding face first across the carpet. Hardly the “cool” entrance I had envisioned. I should have known things might not go perfectly when I was so focused on communicating to the valet parking attendant not to drive off before I unharnessed my dog from the backseat that I forgot the linen jacket to complete my ensemble, which I really needed for its handy full-sized pockets (perfect for easy accessibility to the bacon-flavored dog treats I need to bribe my darling in particularly distracting moments).

But this was “Yappy” hour at the Hotel Derek. Anything resembling pretense was so shot through by leash pulling, barking, and behind-sniffing, it more closely resembled a wild western barroom brawl than an urban cocktail party.

Besides, what dog worth his vet bill lets his owner’s timidity overrule his joy? That’s why we have dogs. They make everything we do more fun.

We met dozens of dogs ranging in size from manageable lap dogs to those - like mine - who resemble dwarf sized freight trains. There was Bear, Nova, Meadow, Bogie, Roxy, Madison and…I wish I could remember them all.

As the evening wore on, confident owners unleashed well-behaved dogs. Someone asked me what Raleigh would do if I let him off-lead. I pictured the banquet room as a three-dimensional pin-ball machine with Raleigh as its ball. “He’s unreliable off lead,” I said. Dogs jumped in and out laps, faces were licked, leftover cheese and stuffed artichoke was cleaned off of abandoned buffet plates.

As the party goers began to let their hair down a midsized short hair did a drive-by taste test of all the glasses at the low table where I had parked for a few moments. One casualty was my glass of water. I wasn’t interested in drinking out of it after that so I offered it to Raleigh. I don’t know if he was really thirsty or just thrilled to experience his first real drink out of a real glass tumbler from a real bar but he drank the glass enthusiastically to its halfway mark. It got tricky after that, his muzzle was nearly as big around as the glass but only half as long. He made it clear he planned to drink every last drop. He’s nothing if not determined. With my careful tipping of the glass and his acrobatic flicks of the tongue he was able to polish off all but the last half-inch of water. (Note to Party Planners – consider a stack of short plastic drink glasses for the four-legged celebrants.)

As we made our way here and there people commented on how “playful” Raleigh was. Everyone wanted to know his age. I think they expected me to say nine months. No, I had to admit, my furry handful is two and a half years old. People with standard poodles in their lives or in their pasts had words of encouragement.

“He’s still a puppy.”
“He’ll be more civilized when he gets to be four.”
“They never get over that,” one person said.

Before I got Raleigh I had a picture of standards as aloof and dignified, not this seventy-five pound maniac with his tongue hanging sideways out of his mouth. The other standards at the event were all well behaved dogs. The apricot beauty, Madison, whom we had met at the Arboretum event in June, exclaimed again, with a well placed snap of her regal jaw that she didn’t want this heathen anywhere near her. It may have something to do with Raleigh’s undying belief that any dog not willing to pin him to the ground must be interested in bearing his young.

Tails up for The Citizens for Animal Protection, Golden Beginnings Golden Retriever Rescue and the Hotel Derek for giving us good cause (and a great location) to come together in a delightful experience for dogs and their owners - made all the more fabulous by the comfort of air conditioning.

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