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Having a dog day afternoon at a canine birthday party

Dog lovers act crazy about their steadfast companions.

Humanizing these animals has expanded into an American pastime, with people indulging their dogs with jewel studded collars and doggy buffet tables. Many of us tag our dog with people names, like Max and Sam, and then talk to them like they understand every word, even allowing them the opportunity to respond.

Taking it up a notch, some canine owners tote their pets in purse-like baby carriers, and allow their dog to sleep in the bed and eat off of their plate at the table. In my mind these individuals tread awfully close to the edge of madness, maybe with one foot actually slipping off the rim; but they have yet to go wholly over the cliff, pooch in purse and all.

The dog owners who actually have skidded into insanity give their dog a birthday party, elevating the beast from man's best friend to a babe in arms; which brings me to a true, but tragic tale, of a birthday party gone to the dogs.

Sheila, the proud owner of Mitzi, a Shih-tzu on the crest of her second birthday, decided to honor her toddler with a party.

"Mitzi, who is turning two/ would be pleased if you/ would come to help her celebrate/ with doggy games and special cake," read the invitation, which I regret to report was indiscriminately sent to all of Mitzi's "friends".

On party day, eight guests arrived at 2 p.m.: two poodles, one English bulldog mix, one golden retriever, one Chihuahua, one Chihuahua-Shih-tzu mix, and two chocolate lab brothers. As each guest arrived, a cone shaped party hat was placed on its head and strapped behind the ears. The tight elastic of the party hats, combined with all the sniffing going on, elevated the excitement in the atmosphere.

The agenda included party games like drool on the sofa until the color fades, bark 'til you drop, and tear the cat piŅata to shreds. All of the merrymaking, particularly the piŅata fun, led to a fierce appetite among the party guests. Despite telling Cujo several times to stop bearing his teeth and gums at Lupe (who was bearing his teeth and gums at the chocolate lab brothers), Sheila felt Mitzi's party was proceeding quite well.

It came time to serve the cake, so all the guests were seated in their chairs (yes, chairs) around the table (yes, a table) with Mitzi at the head. Before Sheila brought out the cake, Mitzi opened her presents: a new squeak toy that sounded distinctly like a taunting squirrel, a variety pack of sumptuous dog treats in beef, chicken and pork flavors, two chew bones, three tug of war ropes, and one synthetic raccoon tail on a string infused with raccoon scent.

The polite guests dared not play with the birthday girl's new toys, and remained in their seats quivering and salivating as "Happy Birthday to Mitzi" was joyously sung. Afterwards, the cake (a delicious bakery cake) was cut and Mitzi, because she was the honored birthday dog, received the first piece.

Poor Mitzi, she never hand a chance. Her birthday, her birthday cake, and Mitzi too, I'm afraid, all went to the dogs.

When Sheila recounted this story with tears in her eyes, showing pictures of the party right up to Mitzi's demise, the lesson in it occurred to her: Your own dog might be human, but that doesn't mean her friends are.

Web posted on Thursday, March 11, 2004

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