If, as dog trainer Bob Maida says, "the basic problem with dogs is underemployment," then the remedy, short of a long walk and a 10-minute game of fetch, is the Capital Children's Museum's Canine Follies.
Nearly 100 of Washington's power dogs -- from Jasper Meese to Kiltie Weinberger, from Topsy de Margerie to Blondie Theismann, from Ashley Regan to Rhett Regan -- found themselves pressed into charity service yesterday afternoon in a dog show spoof benefiting the museum. Although Rex Reagan, the Follies' honorary "petron," was absent, the event drew a crowd of almost 400 and ticket sales of slightly under $1,500. It was cosponsored by Kal Kan, which chipped in another $30,000.
Drawing on 17 years' experience, Maida sat in a tent equipped with a sofa and dispensed soothing canine counsel. He didn't think the event would be particularly traumatic for the dogs. "It's an opportunity for dogs and their owners to interact," he said.
Interact they did. Dog to dog. Dog to owner. Dog to tree.
Hairdresser Robin Weir, gabbing amiably with a fellow participant, said, "Everybody's got that wrong. Eva goes with Merv. Not Zsa Zsa." At his ankles was 6-month-old Sammy -- looking calm and multicolored in three frizzy Eva Gabor wigs, cut and reassembled for his cocker-spaniel shape. "Thank God for Velcro," Weir said. "I don't sew."
Then he pulled out a hair pick, teased Sammy's rainbow curls, told him to "Smile, baby" and set off down the dusty grass runway. The category was "La Societie de Chic Chien," and the judges included Zsa Zsa, not Eva, Gabor.
In a dog show with categories like "Power Barkers," "Ambassadoggerel" and "Media Hounds," it is to be expected that the rules and rewards will be loosely observed and lightly dispensed. Bernard Kalb, cohost for the "Ambassadoggerel" division, warned diplomatic participants that "the prizes are virtually nonexistent."
Hector the Protector (owned by Margie Lehrman) won honorable mention in the "Media Hounds" category as "the best looking white-haired dog who can catch a Frisbee." In that division he was the only white dog who even tried to catch a Frisbee.
A few dogs were roasted by the judges' one-liners -- Sen. Larry Pressler's dog, for example, was "just a hound dog" -- but otherwise, they all got blue ribbons and blue leashes.
It was not a highly competitive day.
The Redskins' spirit-rouser, "The Chief," entered the "Hotdoggers" category with a collar and leash, but no dog. Or was there a dog? He acted as if there was a dog. On the program, where the dogs were listed with their owners, a row of dots extended from "The Chief" and just kept going . . .
Little was asked of the visible dogs and little was given. Penny, daughter of Amanda of Fessenden Street and Sydney of P Street and dog of The New York Times' Martin Tolchin, was asked, "How many symphonies did Beethoven compose?" She either refused to share the information or just didn't know.
The typical question -- "Does he do any tricks?" -- was typically evaded or qualified.
"He does tricks," American University President Richard Berendzen said of his "Power Barker," Sparky. "But only at home."
Finnish Ambassador Paava Rantanen, when asked what tricks his dog Snoopy could do, said, "He's sitting already."
Arthur Burns, former U.S. ambassador to West Germany, retreated into bluntness. "He's lovable, but very disobedient," Burns said of his Yorkshire terrier Hansy. The dog was adorned with two terrier-size flags -- from the United States and West Germany. Hansy does his tricks in the morning, Burns said, and as for the basics . . . "He's already sitting."
That became a popular line.