- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 2, 2002

Did you hear the one about the dog who walked into a bar and asked for a drink?
The bartender said, "Sure, the toilet's in the back."
The pooches that frequent Doggie Happy Hour would never be offered such low-brow refreshment.
Every Tuesday and Thursday from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Select in Old Town Alexandria, dogs are treated to water from a cooler and biscuits laid out on silver platters.
"It's a great place to come and meet people who are just as dog crazy," said Gioia Forman, a regular who comes with her husband, Steve, and their 9-month-old Maltese, Chocolat.
"The only drawback is the dogs aren't very good tippers here," her husband jokes.
The courtyard is filled with dachshunds, Scottish terriers, Labradors, sheep dogs and German shepherds. With them are young couples, middle-aged couples, singles and grandparents with their grandchildren.
"This is a really diverse group of people as far as age and background," Mrs. Forman said.
Chocolat is poking around behind Mrs. Forman's chair, and her leash gets tangled up with another dog's leash, an Italian greyhound. As is often the case, the four-legged members of the party break the ice.
"How much does he weigh?" Mr. Forman asks the owner.
"Thirteen to 14 pounds. It depends on if he read Cosmo this month or not," the owner says to a chorus of laughs.
The Holiday Inn Select started Doggie Happy Hour four years ago.
"Basically, we thought it would be a creative way to bring in revenue," said Tim Ruth, the hotel's food and beverage director.
On a busy night, up to 70 dogs can be gathered in the courtyard. On this evening an uncomfortably steamy Tuesday only 50 or so dogs show up.
When a new canine arrives, the crowd takes note of the breed or its shiny coat or maybe the matching leash-and-collar set. The owner usually rates nothing more than a quick glance.
But that's just Doggie Happy Hour, where it's not uncommon for people to know other patrons simply as "Spot's owner."
"Everybody treats [the dogs] like they are children," said Sharon Colby, as she cradles her 13-year-old west highland terrier, Nipper, over her shoulder.
Instead of careers and politics typical topics at most inside-the-Beltway happy hours the guests discuss the pet psychic show on the Animal Planet network. And like the parents of precocious toddlers, owners talk about how easily their dogs can be trained. Some have their pets perform tricks.
The man with the Italian greyhound holds up a treat, and the dog leaps up and grabs it. Everyone claps politely.
A man with four dogs puts each of them up on a 2-foot brick ledge and tries to train them to stay. They look around impatiently at all the other dogs milling in the crowd.
"He tries to do that every week," Ms. Colby said.
A tall man with a gigantic English mastiff enters, and everyone turns and smiles.
"That's Woody," Mrs. Forman said. "Everyone knows him. He's a regular."
Woody's owner, Charles Goodman, takes a seat and people come up to meet the 220-pound dog, who greets each visitor with a mouthful of saliva.
The mastiff is a well-known figure around Alexandria
"He has won best costume for the St. Paddy's Day festivities here two years in a row," Mr. Goodman said.
Woody will have a chance to win more recognition this week: The hotel is hosting a patriotic pooch contest for the Fourth of July.
Mr. Ruth said as far as he knows, this is the only happy hour that allows dogs. Where there's a phenomenon, merchandising usually follows and Mr. Ruth said they hope to start selling items with a Doggie Happy Hour logo.
"We haven't gotten all the merchandise in yet," he said. "We are still waiting on polo shirts."


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