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Gramercy Park Goes to the Dogs at Annual Canine Parade

By Mary Johnson | September 19, 2011 6:58am

GRAMERCY — Gramercy Park went to the dogs on Saturday, and the tony neighborhood pulled out all the stops to give an occasion for its four-legged residents an appropriately swanky style.

The Canine Comedy Parade, an annual event hosted by the Gramercy Neighborhood Associates, filled Gramercy Park West with pooches large and small. Vendors set up booths advertising organic treats and dog photography and portraits that cost as much as $4,500.

A luxury dog day care and hotel called Wiggly Pups brought along its Rolls Royce Silver Shadow II, used to chauffeur clients to and from the East 22nd Street facility.

Many dogs came dressed to impress. Some sashayed in tight-fitting skirts. A few wore sweaters to fight the early fall chill. Several came in costume, while others opted to arrive au naturel, sporting simple collars instead of statement-making ensembles.

The pups mingled, sniffed and snagged a few free treats, but the main attraction—at least for their owners—was a red carpet catwalk — made of plastic in case of any accidents.

At stake for the dogs working the runway were several prizes from dog and cat boutique Canis Minor and, of course, the title of “Best in Show.”

“We’re hoping for a big win,” said Debbie Fleischer looking down at her four-year-old Chihuahua-Pomeranian mix Wayne Woodrow Hayes.

The dog, called Woody for short, is named after an Ohio State University football coach, Fleischer said.

She contemplated outfitting Woody entirely in Ohio State gear on Saturday. The dog has an Ohio State hoodie, leash and raincoat, among other accessories. Instead, she picked a pair of bat wings from a collection of dog clothing that includes a crab outfit and a Santa suit.

The cost to enter a pooch in the contest was $5. With that fee came a green “participant” ribbon and the chance to strut down a runway ringed with photographers and cooing onlookers.

Lisa Anastasi didn’t have any cash with her on Saturday, leaving her three-year-old beagle Rebel to stand on the sidelines. But Rebel didn’t seem to mind, as he gave Anastasi a couple of high-fives in exchange for treats.

“He’s a naked dog and doesn’t like to wear a costume anyway,” Anastasi said.

For Molly, a blogging five-year-old pit bull rescue, Saturday marked her fourth time walking the runway at the Canine Comedy Parade, which has been going on for at least 10 years, organizers said.

“We had to come here so she would have something to blog about today,” said owner Hal Cohen.

Cohen said the blog has been up and running since 2007, but some days are less exciting for Molly than others. The fashion show promised to break the monotony of posts about Molly eating, napping and peeing.

Cohen adopted Molly four years ago after the pooch was rescued from a dog-fighting ring. Molly was a breeding dog, and by the age of seven months, she had already delivered a litter of puppies.

“But happy ending,” Cohen said. “I’ve got the greatest dog in the world.”

As the fashion show got under way, pups began making their way to the runway, sniffing their competitors as they waited their turn. But in the end, every dog that participated came out a winner.

Two comedians emceed the event and doled out certificates for “most likely to be owned by Snooki from the Jersey Shore,” which went to a curly-haired pup in a tight, polka-dotted skirt, and “I don’t need cable, my ears pick up everything,” given to an almond-colored corgi.

Woody, the Chihuahua-Pomeranian mix, was dubbed “most likely to get a weekly mani and pedi,” and a Shih Tzu strutting its stuff down the red plastic got the “Thank God the ‘Cockapoo’ came along so I don’t have the most ridiculous breed name” award.

The "Best in Show" was the last dog to work its way down the runway, 10-year-old rescue Angel, who wore a Superman cape. Angel’s owner, Joanie Watkins, matched, in knee-high red boots and a sequined Superwoman dress.

Angel has won lots of awards, Watkins said, but Saturday was a special occasion.

“It was his anniversary,” said Watkins, who adopted Angel exactly nine years ago on Saturday. She called it his “re-birthday.”

After the big win, Watkins was swarmed by photographers and dutifully posed for pictures, with Angel snuggled under her arm. The crowd then started to disperse, and smaller dogs, tuckered after all the excitement, were scooped up for the trek back home.

Marion Pearl, of Peter Cooper Village, cradled her three-year-old Havanese named Emmie in her arms after the fashion show concluded.

“She’s a little overwhelmed,” Pearl said, eyeing the pooped pooch.

But Saturday was a good day for Emmie. She walked the runway, and she won.

“She did,” Pearl said, smiling down at her dog. “She got best smile.”