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RSVP / INTO THE NIGHT

It Was a Dog Day Evening in the Park

September 17, 1998|MICHAEL QUINTANILLA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Hampton Shabkie was tired of the doggone dissing from his son, Maxwell. He'd had enough of the grunts, the growls, the grandstanding attitude.

So, on a divine divan, Hampton, a burly but gentle German Rottweiler wearing Mickey Mouse ears, unloaded on Dr. Woof (otherwise known as Ed Cohen, animal behaviorist).

The poor pooch was at the end of his rope--OK, leash. But more on that later.

This was, after all, a moonlit movie screening at Griffith Park on Tuesday, attended by more than 100 pooches and 500 humans, including dog-toting celebs Annie Potts, Debbie Allen, Ernie Hudson, Sheryl Lee Ralph and Charles Shaughnessy. And others who came without dogs: Leeza Gibbons, Lorenzo Lamas, Jack Scalia and Charlton Heston, who brought his wife, Lydia, and their grandson, Jack.

"We didn't bring my grandson's dog, a German shepherd, because I was afraid he would eat a poodle," Heston said.

The event--featuring a canine carnival with psychics, game booths, a doggy obstacle course and Dr. Woof--kicked off the home video re-release of Walt Disney's "Lady and the Tramp," the age-old story of a penniless pooch from the wrong side of the doghouse who falls in love with a rich bitch. (I saw the movie, this dog was loaded!)

Truth be told, the dogs--er, party animals--were less interested in the carnival than in sniffing one another and marking their territory around every available tree trunk and bright red plastic fire hydrant that lined the red-carpet entrance to the fete.

Later, pets and pet owners claimed their spots on 120 oversized sofas--many of them upholstered in beige and white!--before a drive-in movie-sized screen to view the flick with popcorn, cotton candy and pretzels.

More than 1,350 hot dogs and 400 doggy cookies (a fave of human and hound) also were gobbled up along with chili, pasta and taquitos.

Yep, it was a Hollywood hound kind of night, complete with canine celebs Pongo and Perdy from "101 Dalmatians" and Shadow from "Homeward Bound" and "Homeward Bound II," who posed on a stage for photos with other dogs--many who would have none of it, squirming out of their owners' arms and checking out other canines.

At a booth called Growlman's Chinese Theatre, Elizabeth Gabriel, owner of the Dog House, a doggy day-care, was busy all night making plaster paw prints for dogs with names like Thunder, Cookie, Emma, Snoopy, Razzie, Curly and Snowball.

Other pooches opted for a pencil portrait as they sat for artists Rafael Navarro and Max Espinoza, who drew the faces of nearly 50 pugs.

"I've never done anything like this before," Navarro said as he tried to keep up with an eager terrier named Terry--what else?--who bolted from her spot to chow down on a fallen frankfurter.

At Pawcasso's Paw Painting, Tramp, a dog rescued from the Northridge earthquake by Ilene Adeline, dipped his paw in watercolors and created a blob that nearly brought his owner to tears.

"Every day after work, he runs to the door and greets me. I can't imagine any human doing that for me," she said, sweeping the dog into her arms as he planted a big wet one on her.

Everywhere throughout the park, dogs were chasing, jumping, running, barking, getting their leases tangled with others' and squirming on their backs to relieve an itch and raising their legs to relieve themselves. And all were keeping Debi Lande, the pooper scooper trooper, busy as she tended to the doggy doodies. ("I wouldn't step there if I were you." Scoop, scoop. "There you go.")

Other dogs were high-strung and jittery, almost spooked, by the activity. Thank goodness for Dr. Woof.

"Hampton, look this way, baby. Look at Daddy. Look at Daddy," said Hampton's owner, Robert Shabkie, a clothing designer from Studio City, as he tried to get his dog to face Cohen so the doc could offer psychiatric analysis.

The problem? Doggy dysfunctionalism. You see, Hampton and Maxwell, Hampton's offspring, both want to be alpha dogs--or King Canine--in their relationship.

The solution?

"They have to work it out," Cohen advised. And "if they can't be left alone together, then divide the house with baby gates."

Robert Shabkie shrugged. What's a doggy daddy to do? Sink into a sofa and smooch with your pooch.

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