Drinks and doggies: People and (mostly) their pets make event a hit

Lance Shearer

Wednesday afternoon, the courtyard at the Esplanade was swarmed with revelers, both two- 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 large number of purebred dogs on hand. But whatever you called it, the gathering was a pooch parading, tail-waggin’ home run for the Greater Marco Family YMCA, who use the event as a fundraiser.

Pandora the Cavalier King Charles spaniel. The Greater Marco Family YMCA held the annual "Mutts & Martinis" competition at the Esplanade on Wednesday evening, with dog owners dressing up their dogs for their turn on the "catwalk."

The day was notable for the stiff breeze that blew through the courtyard, complicating efforts to dress the dogs, to the point where one almost expected to look up and see a beagle blowing by, lofted by its ears.

Given the number of dogs suddenly encountering strangers, human and particularly canine, the four-footed friends were remarkably well-behaved. The multiple breeds seemed to accept each other’s differences and display great tolerance, perhaps a lesson for their human “masters.” Not a growl was heard, and at least to casual observation, no dogs even attempted to relieve themselves inappropriately.

Not all the dogs had good homes to go back to. Humane Society volunteers and staff including Laura Jahnke paraded around cuddly canines looking for a family, including a 10-year-old beagle/pug mix named Koda, wearing a vest that implored, “Adopt me.”

Patrick Cashin, “canine telepathy expert,” as he put it, or “pet psychic,” as his sign proclaimed, set up a booth offering to reveal to curious dog owners just what their dogs would say if they could talk. Numerous silent auction items, many pet-related, were available for bidding.

When the dogs took their turn on the “catwalk,” parading before the judges, a trio of dogs won for best dressed, Seamus and Lucy the standard poodles as bride and groom, handled by Catherine Blake and Carol Engstrom, along with bichon Rita as their “love child.” Second went to golden retriever Jake, whose human Amy Brown outfitted him in a cowboy outfit including hat, bandana, shirt, gunbelt and custom jeans.

In the dog/owner look-alike contest, first place went to a schnauzer named Dixie, togged out, as were her owners Mario and spouse, in “house divided” Michigan State/Ohio State sweaters. Second place went to English bulldog Cody, dressed like her owner Romell Gravelle in a pink tutu.

The coveted “Best in Show” award went to Oscar, the “dancing Havanese,” who delighted the crowd walking on two legs and doing tricks, along with owner John Johnson. Second place went to Daisy Doodle the golden doodle, shown by Joe Contarino. In all, 35 dogs competed.

Stage announcer Steve Reynolds kept the proceedings moving along, with plenty of shaggy dog humor. The event chair was Fritzi Holmes, and judges were provided by Marco Veterinary Clinic and Florida Community Bank.

If there were any doubt the Y could use the money that was raised, they displayed a placard announcing their latest expansion, with 2,700 square feet to house new fitness equipment, enhanced member services, a cardiac rehab area, and community partnership center.