Metro Weekly

Dogs Have Their Day

Pride of Pets celebrates its 12th year

It wasn’t actually the dog days of summer. Rather, the skies over the Pride of Pets dog show offered about as perfect a late-spring day as anyone could’ve asked for: a shining sun, a light breeze, and no hint of rain.

”It’s a gorgeous day to sit back,” said David Peiffer, master of ceremonies for the Saturday, June 18, show in Dupont Circle. “We’re very blessed today.”

Pride of Pets
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The long-standing show, a long-time staple of Dupont Circle summers, celebrated its 12th anniversary this year as a benefit for PETS-DC, an organization assisting people with HIV/AIDS to care for their pets.

”It’s our big event of the year,” says executive director Chip Wells, who co-founded the group 15 years ago. ”[Fundraising is] not the major focus. It’s more a celebration thing. It gets our message out and celebrates the animal-human bond. That bond provides physical, psychological and emotional benefits to our clients. This is a way to come together and celebrate that.”

The message didn’t fall on deaf ears Saturday. Hundreds of people and their pets gathered in Dupont Circle to participate in the show, watch it, or both. From 3 to 6 p.m., the show’s quarter of Dupont Circle attracted a steady audience, from those keeping a meticulous tally of winners, to curious tourists who simply stumbled into the festivities, billed by PETS-DC as simply a “Fun Dog Show.” In other words, no Westminster huffiness here.

Pride of Pets
Click for more Pride of Pets pics

Through the three-hour event, dogs competed in 15 categories. They got off to a predictable start — that a cocker spaniel would win for ”Best Tail Wagging” was nearly a foregone conclusion. And without irony, a big malamute named Maximus took ”Most Butch.”

That’s not to say that organizers didn’t shake things up at a little bit. Two new categories debuted this year, ”best puppy” and ”best senior dog.”

”We get input from people who’ve helped with the show,” says Wells. ”The ‘best puppy’ class suggestion came from a couple of last year’s participants.”

One long-standing category fell by the wayside this year.

“We dropped one of the costume categories: celebrity look-alike,” said Wells. “We figure our dogs are our celebrities. They can just look like themselves.”

Organizers did, however, keep the ”most original costume” category. And despite dropping the celebrity look-alike award, winner Cody bore a marked resemblance to Donald Trump, complete with dress shirt, tie and poofy wig.

The new categories proved to be among the most popular. Bringing out the puppies was a showstopper so sweet that any diabetics in the immediate area must’ve felt faint. An audible ”aaaw” filled the circle as contestant Tulip, who looked like a Boston terrier pup of possibly 5 pounds, wrestled with Jake, a fellow puppy about four times her size. Spontaneous frolicking or a brazen play to the judges? Either way, it worked. Tulip won the category, while Jake took third.

Pride of Pets
Click for more Pride of Pets pics

”Jake and Tulip — what a pair. I’ll make sure Jake gets Tulip’s phone number,” Peiffer joked.

Maude, a 13-year-old who likely would’ve taken ”Longest Tongue” if it were a category, won best senior. She debunked any charges of ageism on the ”Fun Dog Show” circuit by coming back to take the ”People’s Choice – Best in Show” award at the end of the day, open only to the top winners of all other categories. Of course, after her long day, she needed to be carried to the stage to claim her ribbon.

There was no award for best puns, although Doggie Style Bakery & Boutique sponsored the ”Terrific Tricks” award. To emphasize the point, the trick award went to Jamika — last name Paris, her owner insists — a tiny toy dog who jumped into her own carrier/bed.

While Wells says Pride of Pets is not a major fundraising event for the organization, it does help to bring volunteers to the cause, he says.

”A lot of people want to walk dogs, but that’s not something that’s most needed,” says Wells. ”We want our clients to enjoy the physical activity with their pets, when possible. Â… We don’t need dog-walking, but we do need people to deliver pet food, to deliver clients to appointments, to offer temporary foster pet-care.”

Wells says that he hopes volunteers will fill those needs, adding that he hopes for an expanded PETS-DC in the future. Following in the footsteps of other area service organizations that have stretched their missions beyond HIV/AIDS — like Food & Friends — Wells adds that one day PETS-DC may be able to do the same, helping many more ill patients care for their pets.

”The lessons that we’ve learned from pet companionship Â… are some very valuable lessons, applicable to other diseases,” says Wells. “I just want to see the organization continue to grow.”

Follow Will O'Bryan on Twitter @wobryan.