Pet owners fete dogs with lavish birthday parties

For dog party enthusiasts, it's never too early to begin planning the next party

Children aren't the only ones being lavished with expensive birthday parties. Pet owners are also marking their dog's special day with celebrations.

Lexi, a year-old black and white dachshund, celebrated her birthday in a Manhattan apartment with multi-colored balloons. She munched on dog-friendly cakes made of peanut butter, yogurt and carob, sipped Prosecco and nibbled on miniature cocktail hot dogs with her 15 canine guests.

"I've met so many people in the neighborhood, thanks to her," said actress Robin Brenner, who said she wanted to do something special to celebrate the occasion.

"She's kind of brought us all together."

But not all dog owners are ready to meet the challenges of holding a party for their pooch at home.

New York-based media buyer Jessica Winston, has held two birthday parties for her 3-year-old Bichon Frise, Ernie, including last year's "Bark Mitzvah.

"In dog years," she explained, "Ernie turned 13."

She recently celebrated her pet's third birthday at a dog-friendly watering hole, "Drop Off Service," in Manhattan's East Village.

The birthday dog, along with eight guest, spent a snowy, Sunday afternoon lapping up homemade "pup cakes" made of oats, carrots and cream cheese, while beer and hors d'oeuvres were served to their owners.

As Ernie and his dog pals donned birthday hats and received gift bags and doggie Snuggies, or blankets, their human companions sang "Happy Birthday."

Brenner and Winston are not alone in their quest to honor their dogs with a canine cotillion.

Betty Wong, owner of Pawtisserie, a dog bakery in Brooklyn specializing in natural dog treats, has seen a sharp increase in the number of people throwing birthday parties for their dogs.

"Originally, we opened the bakery because I wanted to give my finicky-eating dog, Buttercup, some healthy menu choices," Wong explained. "We've seen a rise in the number of birthday cake orders during the past few years, and the numbers are steadily growing."

If organizing a pet birthday bash seems daunting, Dorothy Moore can help. In 2005, Moore opened The Dining Dog Cafe in Edmonds, Washington, featuring a pet-friendly restaurant for dogs and their owners. Complete with white tablecloths, soft music and chandeliers, doggie birthday parties are popular at the restaurant.

Moore is also a party planner for canines. She organized about 100 dog parties last year, ranging in price from $100 to $500, including high-end soirees in which owners rent limos for their dogs and guests. A princess theme is also popular with the dogs donning tiaras and all-pink decorations.

A groomer by trade, Moore believes the socialization that naturally occurs during dog parties is good for the pets and their owners.

"Not only do the dogs love the attention, but their owners also seem to get a lot out of the parties," Moore said. "Some people may appear shy at first, but something about the sheer joy of the event brings them out of their shell."

Dr. Nicholas Dodman, director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at The Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in Boston, also recognizes the positive benefits of organized dog gatherings.

"The opportunity for dogs to interact with each other, for whatever excuse, enables fulfillment of a basic biological need," Dodman said.

For dog party enthusiasts, it's never too early to begin planning the next party.

Winston has already begun to ponder Ernie's 4th birthday. "After all, he'll be 28 in dog years," she said.