The menu this past Sunday at the Cascade Lakes Brewing Company Lodge was chicken and rice kibble and a canned chicken mixture, topped with a sprig of parsley. Desert was a bone-shaped biscuit dipped in a carob coating. Some diners ate from the table, while others were content to eat from the floor. Most everyone was done within a matter of seconds, returning to their previous socialization practice of sniffing their neighbors' butts.
This was all part of Bend Spay and Neuter Project's first Dine with Your Dog event, inspired by a popular fundraising effort by the same name in Seattle. Tickets were $10 per dog and included the aforementioned two-course meal while human companions ordered from Cascade Lakes' regular menu. More than 30 tickets were sold, raising $500 for Bend Spay and Neuter Project.
I brought along my energetic lab mix, Maebe, for the dinner. Now Bend, by most anyone's standards, is a wildly dog-friendly town. Dogs are tolerated in many places, including some outdoor restaurant patios. But never have I experienced so many dogs in one place. And, surprisingly, it didn't turn into a disaster. I was actually able to eat my turkey taco salad and sip on a 20" Brown ale in relative peace. I even made a few friends.
The beauty of having a dog is that it promotes conversation among other owners.
"Dogs are such a good ice breaker," said Megan Wellinghoff, clinic manager for Bend Spay and Neuter. Indeed, instead of conversations being limited to your own table, the patio became one big dinner party. And really, when your dog decides to stick her rear end in the face of the Australian Shepard at the table next to you, it's kind of hard not to at least say hello to the owner.
This isn't the first dog-friendly dining event in Bend. Allyson's Kitchen hosts a "Yappy Hour" each Wednesday during the summer, where dogs are given treats and owners taste wines from Mutt Lynch winery. Yappy Hour benefits the Humane Society of Central Oregon and has a growing group of regulars.
Wellinghoff hopes to continue Dine With Your Dog at other local restaurants. Bend Spay and Neuter provides low cost sterilization for area pets and is funded solely by donations and grants. "We have to think of creative fundraisers all the time," she said. The organization also raffled off a basket of dog toys and treats, a Strictly Organic gift certificate and a Cog Wild bicycle tour.
As for Maebe, she seemed to have a great time. After inhaling her Bend Pet Express-donated dinner and dessert, she was happy to socialize with the other surprisingly well-behaved dogs at my table. I sat with three women in their sixties, all who loved the idea of Dine With Your Dog.
"We try to bring the dogs everywhere," said Lani Marchal, a retired nurse practitioner who attended with her cocker spaniel, Chipper.
"They all bring new meaning to the word 'hope' every time the waitress comes by," said Marchal's friend, Sue Powell. Her huge black lab, Luke, was a huge hit with the crowd.
Marchal, who played social butterfly and made conversation with everyone who attended, had the most astute observation of the evening. "I have dog slobber everywhere," she said with a laugh. But, at least at this dinner, nobody seemed to mind.
"I'd rather see dogs than kids, personally," said Powell.