Dogs strut stuff in Cape May doggie pageant

Lexie, a 2-year-old Aussie mix in her peacock costume, with owner Katie Kane of North Cape May, was the winner Sunday of the first doggie pageant at Cape May's Rusty Nail bar. Many other dogs and their owners joined in the fun.
Lexie, a 2-year-old Aussie mix in her peacock costume, with owner Katie Kane of North Cape May, was the winner Sunday of the first doggie pageant at Cape May's Rusty Nail bar. Many other dogs and their owners joined in the fun. (CURT HUDSON)
Posted: August 27, 2013

With the sun beaming down on Cape May's Rusty Nail outdoor bar, dogs of all breeds and sizes strutted their stuff, along with their owners, in the bar's first doggie pageant.

From a blue tutu on an English bulldog to a cheeseburger costume on a boxer, pet owners dressed their dogs in outfits that delighted the crowd Sunday afternoon. But who enjoyed the show more was a toss-up - the kids who eagerly sat up front, reaching out to pet the dogs as they walked the show loop, or the dogs themselves?

"He's loving it," Diane Noren said of the attention received by Bonzo, her 21/2-year-old shih tzu, dressed as a scarecrow. Noren, of Cape May, went as Dorothy.

The pageant consisted of various segments, including costume, tricks, and a beer-chugging contest. Yes, beer. Sort of.

After seeing the popularity of the bar's pit area among dog owners, the proprietors of the Beach Shack hotel decided to add a doggie menu this summer that includes Bowser Beer for Dogs, a nonalcoholic, malt-like beverage made from chicken and barley.

With some help from their public-relations friends, Beach Shack owner Curtis Bashaw and general manager Sandy Montano came up with the idea to have a doggie pageant that would benefit the Animal Outreach of Cape May. The winning dog, Lexie, a 2-year-old Aussie mix, will have her face featured on next year's Bowser Beer bottles, Montano said. She also becomes the bar's new mascot.

Lexie received a perfect score in the talent portion when, on command, she opened a small cooler brought out by her owner, Katie Kane, and pulled out a beer-bottle holder, which she delivered to Kane.

Lexie's peacock costume also received high praise from the crowd and judges.

The judges ranged from local bar patrons to celebrity dog stylist Jorge Bendersky of New York. The event drew more than 100 onlookers, mostly families with children "oohing" over the dogs.

Nine of the 10 finalists who competed in Sunday's event were chosen from more than 60 entries in a Facebook poll. The 10th finalist – rather, finalists – was a lottery pick just before the event. They were Oliver, a 2-year-old, long-haired Chihuahua; and Rosie, a 3-year-old shih tzu. The pair met this summer while their owners kicked back at a Monday happy hour.

On Sunday, the furry pair strutted around in matching orange Rusty Nail zip-up dog hoodies.

Before the pageant, Bendersky painted tattoos on Rosie and Oliver, as well as on other dogs. As he gave Rosie a rose on her backside, owner Kathy Forler laughed and said, "Just like mommy," and promptly showed off a Philadelphia Eagles tattoo on her lower back.

Alas, there was no power in numbers for the duo of Rosie and Oliver. They were the first to lose in the musical chairs round, and they hardly touched the beer during the beer-chugging phase. (The brew was served in dog bowls, not mugs.)

As should have been expected, Joy, a 4-year-old golden retriever, won the beer-chugging competition. In the pageant program, her owner had said of her: "She loves craft beer almost as much as her father."

The pageant raised more than $400 for the Cape May rescue shelter.

The contestants - the human ones, that is - most of whom are regulars at the Rusty Nail because of its dog-friendly atmosphere, said they would do it again next year.

"I really like including her in what I do," Kane, of North Cape May, said of Lexie. "We do a couple things like this, but up the road. It's nice to have somewhere closer."

In other words, a short dog walk.


Contact Claudia Vargas at 856-779-3917, cvargas@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @InqCVargas. Read her blog, "Camden Flow," on www.inquirer.com/camdenflow.

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