Nick Lees: Haute Dawg gala raises cash for Edmonton Humane Society

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John Steinbeck said he had seen the look in a dog’s eyes –- “a quickly vanishing look of amazed contempt” – that convinced him dogs think humans are nuts.

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The expression on the faces of 25 dogs that took part last week in Haute Dawg, a gala and fashion show at the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald, convinced me he was right.

An army of volunteers fed and prepared the dogs to walk around the ballroom, some canines wearing outrageous, frilly costumes that no self-respecting pooch would wear on a walk between fire hydrants.

Handling the evening with aplomb was Diane Buchanan, the organizing committee’s chairperson whose Gordon and Diane Buchanan Family Foundation matched much of the nearly $135,000 raised that evening.

“Pets make a house a home,” she told me. “When I was a small child, I had a cat and then a dog. And my late husband Gordon and I always had dogs.

“I donated to the Edmonton Humane Society (EHS) and had an idea to help bring more awareness to the cause. Dogs and fashion could be a fun event while supporting animals in need.”

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To help, Buchanan recruited her good friend Elexis Schloss, who among other contributions, turned The Mac’s ballroom into what Buchanan described as “a sparkling jewel.”

Keeping the evening on track –- no easy matter! — was emcee and CBC host-producer Stacey Brotzel, who launched the evening by introducing the Edmonton Police Service Pipe Band and Drums.

Funds raised are going to the EHS’ spay and neuter program, which has a mobile surgical unit travel to help pet owners facing financial challenges.

“More funding will go to prevent millions of unwanted puppies being born during the next five years,” says Buchanan. “Do the math — puppies having puppies who have puppies, who have puppies. We quickly get into the millions.”

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The unit can also be used to spay and neuter feral cats. Funds also went to Dogs with Wings, whose mission is to foster integration and independence for individuals and social service agencies by providing them with highly trained Assistance Dogs.

Edmonton Fire Chief Joe Zatylny and Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee were both presented with checks to enable them to add a service dog to their canine departments.

Chief McFee stole the show a couple of times, first by making loving faces to a small Yorkshire Terrier as is if he was greeting a grandchild for the first time, and then offering a smile as wide as the High Level Bridge when he won a raffle prize for a Royal Canadian Mint gold coin worth $2,500.

Meanwhile, Medical student Jane Johnston won a gold card worth $2,500.

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When two people each paid $6,000 in a live auction for a round of golf with McFee and Zatylny, and while auctioneer Sine Chadi and bid spotter Ted Power did excellent jobs, an exchanged look between the eyes of Jack Russell Terrier, Winston, and Siberian Husky , Koda, said it all. I am sure it was the “humans are nuts” look.

Another sought after live auction item, offered by Elexis Schloss, was a high tea for 50 at the former Government House on Connaught Drive, where Schloss lives and Queen Elizabeth II many decades ago enjoyed high tea. The tea, to be served with the same menu as enjoyed by Her Majesty, sold for $3,500.

There was much applause when Edmonton Police Service Const. Daniel Heigh led his service dog Beny around the room, followed by Sgt. Michael Gatha and his dog Razz.

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But Buchanan later became the “wow” of the evening.

Few knew — obscured by the pandemic? — that the show’s creator a year ago in March had been appointed Hon. Lt. Col. of the Military Police Regiment.

“My invitation had come from lawyer Sol Rolingher after he had held the position for 15 years,” said Buchanan, who marched around the ballroom in her military outfit, complete with beret.

“Our 1MP area of ​​responsibility, the largest in Canada, is from Victoria BC, to Thunder Bay, Ont., and includes the Army Navy, Air Force, Military Police and Reservists.”

In my ever-humble opinion, Buchanan was the best dressed lady at dinner and her Biewer Terrier Money Penny, in a matching outfit, was the best-dressed dog.

Both wore dresses by Kathryn Todoruk Couture, which were made from citron Italian silk with fringes on the skirt. Tops were soft-yellow Italian satin with insets of citron silk.

Money Penny is friendly, playful and energetic. But when she stopped to sniff my shoes, there was no doubt I received that quickly vanishing look of amazed contempt.

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