Canine valentines in tutus, tuxes, formals and faux furs had a fab time, as did their human companions at the Washington Humane Society's "Sugar and Champagne" event Jan. 31 that raised about $100,000.
But which were best in show? Here are just a few standouts at the fun fundraiser.
- For talent as well as beauty: Lemon, the deaf bearded collie who obeys sign language for "sit", "lay", and "friend". Lemon befriended me, so it's certainly top dog on my list.
- Most elegant outfit: There's a tie between two mixed breeds: Giselle, a mixed breed ("poinsettia -- she's a pointer and a setter," her owner told me). Giselle wore a cream with black trim coat and matching faux fur cape. And Patsy's off-the-shoulder valentine-red gown with tulle skirt matched her human companion's red sequined sweater.
- Best tie: Henri the French bulldog, whose leopard-spotted bow tie-collar framed his tres charmant overbite.
- Most rare (rarest?) breed: a coonhound. The Treeing Walker Coonhound breed debuts in the 137th Westminster Dog Show February 11-12.
- Most unusual mixed breed: might be Sparky, a chow and golden retriever puppy, but the rescue dog's exact parentage "is anybody's guess," Shaila Royalfern told me. Her 10-year-old son Sachin Muralidhar has just come out with a book "Get A Clue", about the family's first rescue dog Clue, who had to be put down due to a genetic disorder. Sparky is Clue's successor. All proceeds from the book go to the Washington Humane Society (WHS).
- Best behaved: All the hundreds of dogs. Only a few barks, remarkable. Only one accident, or any incident at all. With dozens of scrumptious-looking pooch-appropriate delicacies prepared by some of the area's best restaurants and caterers to pets as well as people, and a Bark Bar provided by Barkley Square, well...
- Most delectable-looking dog snack: multiple tie among "Pup" tarts; bacon candy; "Fido's Party Cookies" including honey, cheddar cheese, and garlic powder for best breath; personalized scone bones or cupcakes or birthday cakes or...
- Richest of all in the "Cake Walk" auction: another tie -- two went for $600 each. Cake auction raised $2,200.
- Best raffle items and idea: Dinner for ten, prepared by chef Todd Gray at RdV Vineyards in Delaplane, Vir. The "Sugar & Champagne" event was hosted by Todd Gray and Ellen Kassoff Gray, Equinox Restaurant, Muse at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, and Salamander Resort opening in August in Middleburg, Vir. Greenbrier Golf Classic package at the famed 235-year-old resort in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va. Dinner for six at Et Voila! Belgian restaurant in the Palisades area of D.C. Great raffle idea to offer three prizes, $50 a ticket, maximum 200 tix sold.
- Best champagne: I couldn't really judge because I didn't taste all 50 bubblies; I was working, after all. But at the event's close, I toasted WHS with Thibaut - Janisson of Charlottesville, Vir. and could've sworn it was from Champagne, France.
- Most famous "Humane Hero": Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg and the Nats support WHS through initiatives including Pups in the Park. The four PIP annual events offer discounted tickets for humans -- and the entire cost of each dog ticket goes to the WHS. Strasburg also recorded a PSA promoting WHS animal adoptions. (My adopted white dove, Nureyev, and I celebrated our 20th anniversary together Jan. 20.)
Even more elaborate is the WHS' Bark Ball fundraiser on June 8. Last year's Bark Ball drew 350 canine guests and their 750 human companions, almost all wearing gowns, tuxedos, or at least black or white ties.