Haute Dog Chicago: A darling doggie fashion show for charity

It was a doggone good time at the Peninsula on September 8 when the FIRST Haute Dog Chicago, a darling doggie fashion show, was held to benefit Canine Companions for Independence. This noble non-profit provides highly trained assistance dogs, and ongoing support, for disabled children, adults and veterans FREE of CHARGE! Local celebs and their furry friends modeled human fashions from Contessa Bottega and doggie attire from The Tails in the City.

The evening began with a reception on the terrace where guests enjoyed gorgeous weather and posing beside a 12 foot inflatable Canine Companion replica. There was even a tiny potty area (courtesy of Pet Patio Pickup) complete with the prerequisite red fire plug.

The runway fashion show, emceed by Amour Genesis, featured models Kristina McGrath (with Harley and Coco); Lakesha Rose (with Coco); Jan Flanagan (with Bella); Mary Lasky (with Ezra); Cheri Lawrence (with Bentley); Angie DeMars (with Pawla); Kim Gleeson (with Spencer) and Sherrill Bodine (with a darling Canine Companion dog).  Joffrey Ballet dancers Jeraldine Mendoza and Dylan Gutierrez provided an exciting flourish for their runway walk, also with a Canine Companion dog. At the end of the catwalk, errrr dogwalk, Dylan hoisted Jeraldine in a daring lift as the audience gasped, oohed, ahhed and applauded.

Megan Koester, Canine Companions for Independence North Central Region ED, shared info about the organization. She told the crowd it takes two years to train a dog at a cost of approximately $50,000 per animal. She said this organization is the largest of its kind in the country with 6 regional training centers.

A highlight of the event was meeting Janie Mejias. Confined to a wheelchair, she demonstrated how her service dog Haven has changed her life. Fighting back tears, she said, "Because of him, I wake up every day with a smile on my face." There wasn't a dry eye in the house after she finished to rousing applause and a standing ovation.

The fashion show was produced by ZZAZZ Productions and sponsored by Piper Jaffray, Mel Gottlieb, Tails in the City, The Peninsula Chicago and Contessa Bottega.

It was a PAWS-itively great time for a wonderful cause and Rooney Jordan and I were thrilled to be included! (Photos by Marcin Cymmer).

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