‘Mutts & Martinis’: Dogs and owners pack Esplanade

Lance Shearer

Medical science has not yet named the syndrome that leads seemingly sane people to outfit their already beautiful canine friends in outlandish costumes and parade them in public, but the phenomenon was in full bloom Wednesday evening at the Esplanade.

“Mutts & Martinis” returned for its ninth outing, with dozens of dogs, or rather their owners, competing for bragging rights, and hundreds of spectators on hand to take in the spectacle. The dogs showed they deserve their rep as man’s best friend, not only allowing themselves to be dolled up, but with never a dogfight, doggie accident or even an unfriendly bark to be seen, heard or smelled.

Kellie O’Toole turned Louie and Francie, her Japanese chin dogs, into a birthday party on wheels, putting them into a gift-wrapped baby carriage festooned with balloons, patiently wearing party hats. Cathy Bressan went for a “Cruella deVille” look herself, but instead of a Dalmatian carried a small lapdog, in matching black and white with lime green accents.

Lucy, a bassett hound, wore a dress matching owner Judy Jones’ rose-pink outfit, and had her toenails reddened with tape rather than paint. Gizmo and Abby were perhaps the ultimate theme entries, turned into veritable martinis themselves with Elizabethan collars for stemware and enormous simulated olives.

“I saw it on Pinterest, and I thought the theme was perfect,” said Gizmo’s owner Victoria Livorsi.

Some dog owners, mostly those who came to observe rather than compete, allowed their dogs to remain undressed beyond their own coats, including Tammy the smooth collie, escorted by Jim and Janice Arnold.

“We didn’t even do a bow,” said Janice.

Chris “Bow-wow” Bowden, public education coordinator for the Marco Island Fire-Rescue Department, took the occasion to announce a new initiative by MIFD, their Emergency Pet Care Program. Volunteers can register to “pet sit” the animals of people who have to go to the hospital or cannot care for their pets after a fire or medical emergency, and residents can also register their animals’ needs if they should be in that situation themselves. The program will be officially launched on April 17 at the Marco Island Dog Park within Mackle Park.

Their choices made difficult by the “ruff” competition, judges Tiffany Homuth, Megan Stewart and Rosie Folks awarded Best Dressed to Lori Harris and her Isabella, togged out as an angler and a bait shrimp. The “lookalike” category was declared a tie, with serial competitor (and winner) Candy Seward and Bentley, dressed as Catwoman and Batman, sharing the honors with Jim Borris and Zoey with a pirate theme. Best in Show went to Paige Wood of Upbeat Canine and her pooch Dallas, not for their outfit, but for the skills exhibited, with border collier Dallas sitting up, begging and twirling on command.

The event benefitted the Greater Marco Family YMCA, and in addition to the pups on parade, also included a silent auction, “pooch portraits” by John Ritchie, with photographic prints output on the spot, a “doggie psychic” to decipher their thoughts and moods, and caricature artists coordinated by Betty Newman on hand to draw your dog’s likeness. The Humane Society was on hand with puppies looking for homes, reminding people that, “You can’t buy love, but you can adopt it.” DJ Steve Reynolds hosted.