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A Dog-Meet-Dog World for These Party Animals

September 01, 2002|CHRIS L. JENKINS | WASHINGTON POST

WASHINGTON — He acted like he had all the right moves and the looks to boot: a shiny brown-and-white fur coat, cool shades and a crisp white T-shirt that showed off his lean pecs.

But Dick, a 2-year-old Jack Russell terrier, was all dressed up with no one to play with. There he sat at Doggie Happy Hour at a suburban Alexandria, Va., hotel this week, looking for another terrier to get to know.

Dick's chaperon and owner, Andy Messing, bemoaned his friend's bad luck.

"He thinks he's Elvis reincarnated, but I can't seem to get this little fella a date," said Messing, 55, who would like a suitable companion for Dick. "But my God, if we can't find a mate here, where else is he going to go?"

It may have been a slow night for Dick, who seemed content to be fawned over by females of the human persuasion, but for the other 50 or so canines that cruised the Doggie Happy Hour at the Old Town Holiday Inn this week, it was a frolic.

As they do every Tuesday and Thursday evening in the hotel courtyard, the dogs sipped on water served up cold and munched on dog biscuits laid out crunchy and generally got tangled up in their leashes, while their owners threw back beers and all-you-can-eat-shrimp orders.

"She can't keep from drooling, she's so excited," Diane Farrell, 41, said of her black mutt, Noel.

Hotel management started the pooch party four years ago when they noticed that some of their patrons brought dogs to the restaurant and bar but reluctantly had to leave them outside. Now, Dobermans, Labradors and a slew of mutts come from as far as Richmond, Va., and Calvert County, Md., to join in the fun.

"Where else can both dogs and people have a good drink and laugh together?" said Sandra Tellingsworth, 39, who, with her brown-and-white beagle Smokey, has been a regular for a year. "It's just one of those novel things you've got to love about living in a city of dog lovers."

It's not surprising that a hotel started a happy hour for dogs in Alexandria. With 18 dog runs, stores that specialize in gourmet canine treats, and dog biscuits served up like lollipops at shops, this city of nearly 130,000 just across the Potomac from Washington has long given canines most-favored-pet status.

For the Holiday Inn, the canine party also has been a nice side business. It's taken on a life of its own with Doggie Happy Hour shirts, hats and water bowls, and a Web site: www.doggiehappyhour.com.

Every Halloween, there's a doggie costume party at which mutts have been known to appear as Superdog (with cape), Huladog (Shar-Pei with grass skirt) and Sherlock Holmes. (Alas, the Great Dane in question carried no pipe.)

"It's become a significant cash dog for us," said Tim Ruth, the hotel's food and beverage director. "We try not to talk in terms of cows on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Only dogs."

Doggie Happy Hour draws as many dog jokes as dogs, especially from Holiday Inn guests who often drop by and stare in amazement.

"This is a doggone shame," said Justin Greer, a business executive from Tucson, who has a 4-year-old bulldog. "If I had known, I would have brought Tobias."

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