Amid the glamour and glitter of the Fashion for Paws® Runway Show fundraiser April 12, a service dog wearing a "Disabled Vet" vest stole the hearts of the crowd.
German shepherd Axel "saved my life," Marine Capt. Jason Haag, a retired veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, told me. "We save them from shelters, and they save us," said Haag, whose dog helps him with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain injury (TBI). He's a board member of K9s For Warriors.
At Fashion for Paws (F4P), many of the 1,000-strong crowd gathered around Haag and Axel at the elegant reception and dinner, while other K9s prepared for their close-ups on the catwalk at the Omni Shoreham Hotel.
The sold-out event (watch video), one of the area's most fun fundraisers, raised more than $417,000 to benefit the Washington Humane Society (WHS). America's only Congressionally chartered animal welfare agency, WHS was established in 1870.
The privilege of strutting their stuff had to be earned, by raising at least $5,000 dollars per human and canine model team. The top model raised more than $31,000; two others raised more than $25,000; among the ten teams that each brought in more than $11,000 for the WHS.
Several of the dogs had modeled in the seven previous F4P, like Lani, a gorgeous Husky, Malamute, and Akita mix. Her "Queen Pink" outfit, tailor-made for the lovely Lani by Mallory Hancock of Regal & Pooch, was a pink quilted robe with a high collar in white and silver.
"She's a once-in-a-lifetime dog. Very smart, loving, and doesn't give me one moment of trouble. The wonderful companionship and love of a dog is good for everyone's soul," opined her proud papa, Assistant U.S. Attorney Bernie Delia, who practices criminal law.
Lavender, a Yorkie, wore lavender glitter ear adornments, plus an orange dress with white appliqué. Lavender had been completely paralyzed by a neck injury only four months ago, but is now fully mobile, thanks to intense treatments by neurologist/neurosurgeon Lauren Talarico, who walked her patient down the aisle. Lauren and Lavender raised more than $14,000 for F4P.
Also prancing to the blasting tunes of "I'm Addicted to You", "Let the Music Play", and other apt tunes were:
- Top model fundraiser Roux, whose white fur was swathed with a moss green brocade coat decorated by tiny mirrors, evoking a Rajasthan, India style. She was adopted from WHS last summer by Lita Frazier, who serves as Executive Director of Chicago Board Options Exchange, the world's largest options exchange.
- Frank, whose curly mocha fur was enhanced by a gold glittering collar, was definitely camera-ready. He strode to the front of the runway, sat and posed for the dozens of cameras, wagged his tail, and retreated reluctantly.
- Only a few of the dogs balked, and none barked. One tiny pooch in a pink net tutu was pulled along and then carried by her human model. And Layla, a pit bull in a blue tutu with dark blue rosette and sparkle, was hoisted by her human dad.
- A shocking pink and magenta tutu with glitter was worn by Sephora, who tried to shake off the matching ribbons in her hair. Or was that just a hair flip to seduce audience members.
- The pink sequins on Alfred's bow tie and black tux matched its pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness.
- Rusty's luxuriant milk chocolate-colored fur was brilliantly offset by his rhinestone-encrusted inches-wide collar.
- Henri, a French bulldog, sported a patchwork jacket in various blue hues.
- Yorkie Tyson's bronze sparkling jacket blended with his human companion's skin-tone mini beneath black lace and tulle.
Not that audience members cared what mere human models wore, but they were dressed grandly by Tysons Galleria.
The canine designs were by two designers: Lisa Schreiber, whose Wagtime has two locations that offer the "cool stuff" as well as boarding, daycare, and grooming, and by Mallory Hancock, who debuted the spring line of her Regal & Pooch, and her custom LUX label jackets, like Maggie's stretch denim ditty with Swarovski crystals lining the seams.
Hancock gave me this tip before dashing backstage to "dress" five of the dogs. "Metallics and pearls, always -- you can never go wrong," Her Pomeranian, Moosey, wore Hancock's "Jacket Onassis", pure silk dripping with pearls.
Moosey wore Hancock's doggie silver lamé hoodie at the WHS annual "Sugar & Champagne" fundraiser last February.
The next WHS fundraisers include:
- Doga -- do the downward dog and other yoga with your dog on May 10.
- The 27th annual Bark Ball, June 14 -- the city's only black-tie event where dogs are welcomed. Black tie is optional for dogs, but leashes are required.
The organization "helps more than 43,000 abused, abandoned, neglected animals each year. We support them and gives them the voice they need," WHS President and CEO Lisa LaFontaine told the audience. "These animals have a limitless ability to forgive and to love."
LaFontaine pronounced the event "filled with fabulosity."
And as Will Rogers said, "I love a dog. He does nothing for political reasons." What a welcome relief in Washington.
For more info: Fashion for Paws® Runway Show, Omni Shoreham Hotel, 2500 Calvert Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. Washington Humane Society, www.washhumane.org. Watch videos of F4P. Next WHS fundraisers: Doga, yoga with your dog May 10, and the 27th annual Bark Ball, June 14. K9s For Warriors, fundraising gala June 28, Omni Shoreham Hotel.