A lot of woofs and r-rrrrs at Doggie Happy Hour

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It was bound to return.

Those marketing geniuses at San Francisco-based Kimpton Hotel Group told us so a year ago when they closed down the old Holiday Inn King Street and embarked on a massive $100 million facelift for the new, rejuvenated and oh-so-hip Hotel Monaco.

So on Tuesday the Old Town dog culture descended, in their best doggie haute couture, with little bow-ties and Harley Davidson outfits. There was a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig named “Rika,” who looked fetching in a pink knit sweater, but as a bovine the Big Dogs paid little attention, as Rika had crashed their courtyard party.

Three-year-old Rika, accompanied by her Chihuahua side-kick “Lola,” does these visits on a regular basis. Part of a Maryland-based pet therapy group called Pets on Wheels, several times a week Rika and Lola visit hospitals, nursing homes and even doggie happy hours, to spread love, smiles and pet therapy.

Lola is well known in Alexandria dog circles, having claimed first prize for her costume last Halloween in Old Town. “You get people who are non-responsive otherwise,” said Michael Capps, a Pentagon contractor by day and by night and weekends serves as director of the Charles County chapter of Pets on Wheels. “About 40 to 60 percent of the elderly people our 125 volunteers visit are dislocated from their families or friends. So they can relate a lot to the pet, which they may have had as children.”

Capps lives in a house in Pomfret, Md. with his very understanding wife Yoshiko, the 24-pound pig, the four-pound Chihuahua, a Pomeranian, a Maltese and a Silky Terrier. “Everyone but the Maltese volunteers,” Capps said.

Doggie Happy Hour 2008, which will occur every Tuesday and Thursday until Halloween, was unleashed by Kimpton executive Rob Hannigan, who stressed that all Kimpton-branded hotels are dog-friendly.  “Over the last year we were invariably asked when construction would be complete and when does Doggie Happy Hour begin, not necessarily in that order,” Hannigan said. “Our hotels are for everyone.”

General Manager Nick Gregory, or “the big dog himself” as Hannigan called him, presided over the leash-cutting and said it was nice to have “our four-legged friends back..A whole year off was hard.”

There were lots of libations and boutique-y food to be had, offered up by Jackson 20, made famous by an opening week visit by First Lady Laura Bush. Canine lovers supped on Rockfish fingers, shrimp corndogs and cheddar cheese fries, washed downed with drinks called French Apples and Grapefruit Vespers.

The Biggest Dog of all was a 150-pound one year-old named “Duke,” who stands 6’4″ on his hind legs. He chows down six cups of Nutro pet food every day, fed lovingly by Peggy Spoonaugle of the Windsor Park section of Alexandria. Standing fearlessly next to him was “Pomeroy,” a nine-year-old Pomeranian owned by political consultant Mike Lane of Old Town. “He’s totally fearless,” Lane said. “He’s a rescue from the Northern Virginia SPCA who was enslaved in a puppy mill. He’ll chase down the big one if he has to.”

Ahh, the Life of a Dog.

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