MARCO ISLAND — Wednesday afternoon, the courtyard at the Esplanade was swarmed with revelers, both two-legged and four-legged, for two things Marco Islanders go for in a big way – canines and cocktails.
Or “breeds and bevvies,” or “pedigrees and Perrier” – any of those might be a more technically accurate description than “Mutts and Martinis,” the actual name of the event, given the great number of purebred dogs on hand. But whatever you called it, the gathering was a pooch parading, tail-waggin’ home run for Bedtime Bundles, the local charitable organization that sponsors it.
Given the number of dogs suddenly encountering strangers, human and particularly canine, the four-footed friends were remarkably well-behaved. Not a growl was heard, and at least to casual observation, no dogs even attempted to relieve themselves inappropriately.
Nick Ciletti of NBC 2 News, aided by DJ Steve Reynolds, kept the proceedings moving along, with plenty of shaggy dog humor.
“Look, the ‘pupparazzi’ are lining up for photos,” said Ciletti, “unleashing” a pack of one-liners about “a plethora of pooches” and “putting on the dog.” Dozens of dogs and their owners took their turn on the “catwalk,” parading past the reviewing stand to be judged for prizes in five categories. The competition, Ciletti said, was “ruff.”
Shorty, a two-pound Chihuahua, won for smallest dog, carried aloft by owner Dana Young. Effa, an Irish wolfhound, was the biggest.
In the “chicest” dog category, Bentley, a golden doodle who really put on the dog, took top honors, escorted by Candy Seward, stunning herself in a gold lame number slit up to here. Miniature poodle Rocky the Beach Boy won for party animal, a proud moment for owner Dave Ricchio.
Bonnie Draper and Nikki won the look-alike contest. Dale and Donna Rod, togged out as firefighters, won for best costumes, with their two non-Dalmatian fire dogs.
Several pet adoption agencies had booths in the courtyard, enticing those who might have room in their homes and their hearts for a dog, or another dog, with puppydog eyes and special deals. A three-month setter mix offered by the Brooke’s Legacy rescue group wore his heart on his sleeve, or more accurately, on his collar, sporting a neckerchief that read “adopt me.” Along with the Humane Society, the animal advocate group For the Love of Cats brought along a few outnumbered kittens, looking adorable and melting hearts for those who could spare a moment from the dogs.
“Omigosh, what a turnout,” said Bedtime Bundles founder Karen Saeks. “This is beyond our greatest expectations.” Last year, she said, Mutts and Martinis made $23,000 for Bedtime Bundles, “and this is much bigger than last year.”
Bedtime Bundles puts together and donates packages of supplies for the children of migrant farm workers, everything from pajamas and toiletries to blankets, books, toys and food. By the end of April, said volunteer Cheryl Mueller, they will distribute 2,500 bundles.
To help Bedtime Bundles, a 501(c)3 charity, go to www.bedtimebundles.org.