What: The 22nd Annual Bark Ball: Washington’s only black-tie gala for the four-on-the floor crowd, hosted by the Washington Humane Society.
Where: The Washington Hilton’s International Terrace and Ballroom.
When: Saturday, June 6.
Who: Washington dog lovers and their canine companions. Boldface names included Ichiro Fujisaki, the Japanese ambassador, and his wife, with their dog, Skipper. The dog, a beautiful 13-year-old black Lab wore an adorable white top complete with a black bow tie. “I’m surprised all of the dogs are behaving so well,” the ambassador said of the evening. “They are behaving like proper ladies and gentlemen.” DC Councilmember Jack Evans was there with his three children as well as his dog, Kelly, the family’s two-year-old golden retriever, who wore a brown cowboy outfit.
Ticket price: $250 per person or $2,250 for a table of ten.
Attire: Black tie for dog owners—and pretty much anything for their four-legged dates (see Best-Dressed Canine category below).
Cause: The money raised goes toward Washington’s homeless animals and people in difficult situations with their pets. The Washington Humane Society (WHS) held its first Bark Ball in 1988.
All photographs by Chris Leaman
Scene: The night began with a silent auction at the International Terrace, where guests mingled (there were no lines at the bar, unlike for the dogs’ water bowls) while the canines were happy to socialize among themselves. The room also had caricature artists, a doggie bar, and a photo booth. Minus the occasional run-in with a dog much bigger than me and the few barks here and there, the event was relatively tame. And only at the Bark Ball can you spot a man dressed in a tux carrying a martini in one hand and a Pomeranian in the other. WHS volunteers walked around with pups named Pinky, Astro, Layla, and Bubbles, who each wore an “adopt me” vest. Guests could fill out adoption applications on the spot.
The silent auction featured dozens of items including travel getaways, Washington dining certificates, and of course an array of canine paraphernalia. Some of our favorite items included a puppy party at Equinox restaurant for the winner, seven friends, and their pups, with Champagne and petits fours. We were also impressed by an Hermès dog collar, whose bid card read: “A dog collar for the elegant dog who wears designer but doesn’t need to flaunt it!”
At 8 PM, guests and dogs went downstairs to the International Ballroom for dinner and a live auction. The table centerpieces were dog-shaped topiaries. The five live-auction items included a painting by Karen Derrico and a “Beverly Hills Experience” (flights on American Airlines to Beverly Hills and two nights at the Four Seasons hotel there). The item sold for the highest price was “At Home with Chef Todd,” a five-course tasting menu at your home for 12 friends with Todd Gray of Equinox. After fierce bidding, it sold for $4,200.
Fashion: Biped men and women looked handsome in tuxedos and gowns, but the biggest fashion statements were made by the dogs. From a Boston terrier with a jewel-studded collar and rhinestones glued to his head to two West Island white terriers with body glitter on their fur to a golden retriever in a blond wig with blue ribbons (saved only for special occasions, its owner said), there were certainly no rules when it came to canine attire and accessories.
Food and drink: Given that the hors d’oeuvres at the reception were mediocre, the crowd looked excited when staff members brought out silver platters piled high with baked goods—only to realize they were dog treats. The gourmet dog bar, a big hit with both dogs and their owners, was provided by Berkley Square Gourmet Dog Bakery & Boutique.
Our favorite dogs: Heidi, an 18-year-old (that’s 126 in human years) dachshund, who can no longer walk but still gets plenty of fresh air—in a stroller. Seeing people’s fascination with their blue miniature dog stroller, two owners Mary and Joe noted, “It’s perfect for sneaking Heidi into restaurants!” Appropriate for her age, Heidi stuck to a classic look by wearing just a simple string of pearls, borrowed from Mary. The best-dressed dog had to be Chai, a four-year-old Japanese Chin. This little black-and-white dog certainly knew how to stand out from the crowd, wearing a silky red ballerina dress, complete with a fluffy red tutu.
Boldface names: 2 out of 5
Swankiness: 4 out of 5
Food and drink: 4 out of 5
Exclusivity: 3 out of 5
Total: 13 out of 20