Bark Fest

Earlier this year, I attended a couple of business affairs. At an afternoon party, Muttropolis in La Jolla had a spread of food -- corn on the cob, grilled ribs and burgers. Upon closer inspection, however, I saw that they were chew toys.

Muttropolis hosts events for dogs and their owners on the third Thursday of each month. This one was dubbed "mutt mingle." I watched as two small dogs sniffed each other, and a lady nearby said "She's in love." It was as if they had been set up on a doggie blind date. The other owner said, "My dog is here two seconds and is sniffing every butt in sight."

The dogs barked as other canines came in. They'd start off playing and then it would escalate into a bark fest.

There was an area with a variety of chew toys. (I've since read that a Michael Vick chew toy has been taken off the shelves because of licensing issues.)

They had snacks (for humans and dogs) and a couple choices of wine. "They should have cookies shaped like dog biscuits," I suggested, and a woman looked at me as if I were nuts.

The conversations were interesting. Listening in reminded me of the Chris Guest film Best in Show. I caught someone baby-talking to their dog: "And do you want some of this cheese I'm eating? Yes, yes you do, my little baby."

I heard several other couples talking seriously about their dogs and various breeds.

One lady brought a dog in a vest that read "Pup in training to be a service dog." I asked her to tell me a little about that. "Dogs don't just help the blind. They help people in wheelchairs, also. They can learn to turn lights on, pick up items you drop, or open doors."

I asked her if people distract her dog despite the vest. "I hate that. Someone once gave a dog-in-training a piece of sausage. People don't realize that the dog is working. If you see a blind person, you should ask them before you start petting their dog and talking to it. It's confusing [for the dogs]."

I saw a few tiny dogs -- if they were fish, you'd throw them back. One woman, who I think wondered why I was there without an animal, asked if I had a dog. When I told her that I didn't, she asked if I had one when I was a kid. "I had fish," I said. "That was it. Maybe because my stepdad worked at the post office, dogs were off-limits."

One woman was browsing through the cat toys. She picked up a fake fishing pole with a fish dangling on the end of it. I said, "The cats have cooler toys than the dogs, don't they?"

It was hot, and the shop's air conditioning didn't seem to be on. When the smell of dog overwhelmed me, I headed to another event. * * * I picked up my date, thinking this would be a nice, inexpensive evening. It was a fundraiser for the YMCA. Mike, who's a deputy sheriff, invited me. He mentioned that they'd have blackjack tables and games. When I arrived at the Gaslamp location, Joltin' Joe's, I was told that the cover was $25 per person. So much for a cheap date. I had $18 in my wallet and asked them if they'd take a credit card. They said that they couldn't. My date leaned in and suggested, "Tell them you shouldn't have to pay because you're writing about the event." I explained to her that it was a good cause and that I didn't want to appear cheap. The woman working the table told us to fill out the forms and just go in.

I asked Mike if he did any other volunteering, and he told me that he refereed volleyball games. I asked if the club gave them a good deal, and he said that they got the upstairs poolhall for free. I told Mike that I thought it was a great set-up. "We used to have this at my house for $5 a ticket," he informed me. "It got too big, though." I wanted to tell him that I would've felt better about paying $5 a ticket, and then I realized that I didn't pay anything.

There was a DJ, who donated his time, playing a variety of tunes. I heard White Stripes, Pink Floyd...and when a Def Leppard song played, a woman walked along to it as if she were in a video. She sang each word and sat on a stole at a table and acted as if she were a stripper. Later in the evening, the DJ played hip-hop and got the crowd to dance.

My date and I went to the blackjack table. The dealer was young and not experienced. He often counted wrong and took chips from winners. To be fair, he also gave chips to losing hands. My date said to me, "If this guy was in Vegas, I'd complain." The older guy next to us rolled his eyes whenever the kid made a mistake. When my date said the same thing to the older guy, he snapped at her, "This is a charity! It doesn't matter if he messes up!" She was shocked.

We went to check out the food, but there wasn't much there. My date said, "I don't like the stuff they have. Can we go around the corner to Dick's Last Resort?"

We walked over there, and I dropped another $50.

We went back to the YMCA event and found a different blackjack table. We could tell that the woman dealing was experienced. Turned out she was Mike's wife, a speech therapist in Chula Vista. My date took speech-therapy classes in college, and they discussed the subject.

I found a table where the card game War was being played. A big-busted blonde was waiting for players. When a group of guys came to her table she said, "I was lonely until you all showed up." They loved it. They spent the rest of the evening there.

I noticed that the young blackjack dealer was getting flustered at his table. When I walked by, I heard him say something about getting a drink. I said, "I'll take over for you." (In college, I dealt blackjack for a local company.) I was enjoying myself, so when the kid came back, I told him I'd continue if he wanted. He looked relieved.

I dealt cards for about an hour. When the auction started, the card games stopped, and I went to check out the bidding. Mike had told me that Reggie Bush's mother donated an autographed item.

They auctioned a signed baseball from Dave Winfield that I bid on several times. Once it got up over $100, however, I quit bidding. I bid on a football signed by Shawn Merriman. I bid on that until it got higher than I wanted to pay. When they showed a basketball signed by the Denver Nuggets, I was surprised the starting bid was $5. I won it for $50. As the person handing it to me took my check, he said, "You got a great deal. We wanted a lot more for this." I felt guilty.

My date reminded me as we were leaving that we didn't have to pay to get in. "But they made out from us being there," she said. "We didn't eat their food and we gave them $50. I wonder why they didn't say you could write a check for the entrance fee."

"Well, we got in for free, so who cares," I said.

I didn't realize when I filled out those forms with my name and address at the entrance table that I'd be getting invoices every two weeks.

Crash your party? Call 619-235-3000 x421 and leave an invitation for Josh Board.

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