Maybe Not White Tie, But a Whole Lotta Tails

From left, Calob, Sarah Cathcart, Shannon Reilly, Angela Devoti and Fionnuala Fox (holding Chachi) in a sing-along after marrying their pets at Ottobar.
From left, Calob, Sarah Cathcart, Shannon Reilly, Angela Devoti and Fionnuala Fox (holding Chachi) in a sing-along after marrying their pets at Ottobar. (By Bill O'leary -- The Washington Post)

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By Adriane Quinlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 29, 2006

BALTIMORE -- During a 2004 debate about same-sex marriage, a Republican state senator in New Hampshire warned of a slippery slope and asked, "What about a person who loves their pet? Should we allow them to marry?" Why, yes, responds a burly man in a kilt -- traditional Scottish wedding garb -- who is waiting onstage in a bar to wed his male puppy, Mickey. "I have a closer relationship to Mickey than two of my three wives," explains David "Big Dave" Sanderson, who named the mongrel after puppy-eyed Mickey Rourke in the 1987 film "Barfly."

Sanderson was one of seven owners who swore undying devotion to their pets in rituals Thursday night at the Ottobar, where three dogs, two cats, a tarantula and a turtle were (unlawfully) united with human caretakers in what bar owner Mike Bowen called the city's first "interspecies marriage ceremony."

The tongue-in-cheek event had nothing to do with bestiality, participants said, but had something to do with animal rights, something to do with equal rights, and a lot to do with being single and thirty-something, weathering the taunts of the happily married and going home every night to your dog.

"Same-sex, interspecies, I don't care. Love is transcendent," said Steve Diamond, putting down his drink to pet his four-inch tarantula, Barbarella. "I'll be a good husband to her," he pledged. "I'm the one who does all the cooking and cleaning."

Perched on Diamond's arm, Barbarella was silhouetted against the animated film "All Dogs Go to Heaven" projected on a back wall. From speakers overhead, dogs barked renditions of Beatles songs, and near the stage, animal crackers "trotted" across the pale pink frosting of a wedding cake.

After a few dogs met, sniffed and tussled in the back room while their owners watched, about 30 drinkers clumped around candle-lit party tables sheeted in pink and sprinkled with confetti, and turned to face the altar as Baltimore musician Snacky Hillman climbed onstage, adjusted his black toupee, set down his martini, and struck a few chords on an electric keyboard.

Each couple was led by "flower girl" Sarah Perrich. In her dirty white dress, sucking on a bottle of Yuengling and tossing plastic petals half-heartedly, she looked less flower girl and more Courtney Love in the video for "Violet." Beneath a bower laced with Christmas lights and roses presided the "honorable reverend" Bowen, outfitted in a judge's dark robes and a white winter scarf. Earlier that day Ottobar employee Angela Devoti had ordained him as a minister, online, through the Universal Life Church (ULC.org).

"Do you want to see my certificate?" Bowen said, pointing a finger to his chest. "'Cause I printed one out."

The state of Maryland allows "commitment ceremonies," but they carry no legal validity. Said John Wank Miller, supervisor of Baltimore's marriage license department: "The annotated code of Maryland gives you a definition of marriage that has nothing to do with animals."

The nuptial event was the result of an escalating dare. One fateful day at the Ottobar, Devoti gushed to Bowen about her cat, Emilio, and Bowen snapped back, "If you love it so much, why don't you marry it?" Devoti, maturely, said, "Well, maybe I will." Then Bowen retorted: "Well, you should do it. I'll do it. I'll marry you to your cat. At the Ottobar. In a public ceremony."

"My attempt," Bowen recalled, "was to make her look crazy and alone."

But when Devoti started spreading the news, jealous friends wanted in. Fionnuala Fox already had her Chihuahua Chachi's name tattooed on her left arm; why not take it a step further and get hitched? Fox mailed handmade invites, registered at local stores and dressed like a real bride -- one who happens to favor the snow-white four-inch thigh-high platform boots of a streetwalker. Having just split with a boyfriend, she saw this as an opportunity to, she said in the gravelly voice of a young cynic, "be married at least once in my life."


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© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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