By Virginia Muzik
From the invite, which touted “a new breed of sporting heroes that will leave you begging for more”, to guests being issued with dog tags, according to their rank in the “pack”, from Top Dog to “Repawter”, the evening was a homage to all things pooch.
Musician Jimmy Barnes and Actor Sam Neill
Event management was a collaborative effort between publicity agency Eck Factor and entertainment promoter, Chugg Entertainment.
“We came up with the basic concept of the event which was to turn the restaurant into a ‘doggie park’ complete with park benches, trees and street signs. Guests wore dog tags and were served cupcakes from stainless steel dog bowls custom made for the event,” said Eck Factor senior publicist and event manager Adam Cubito.
“Centennial Parklands Dining was chosen as the [launch] venue because of the dog-friendly nature of Centennial Park combined with the modern and accessible feel of the venue. They were very accommodating with our requests.”
Celebrities at the launch, some of whom brought their pooches, included actor Sam Neill, musicians Jimmy Barnes and Diesel, The Biggest Loser personal trainer, Michelle Bridges and Cesar Millan from US TV series, The Dog Whisperer.
Speaking from an Olympic-style winners’ podium, Master of Ceremonies, Grant Denyer, continued the dog puns; announcing that the Games will be held “all under the one woof”, and that a “lucky paw prize” would be drawn at the “tail end of the evening”. The crowd seemed to lap it up.
Denyer also cited statistics including that there are around three million dogs in Australia and that $4.6 billion was spent nationally on the pet industry in 2008 – proving that pets are serious business in Australia.
Roving waiters kept the canapes and drinks coming all night. Seafood lovers were in their element, with platters of deep fried calamari and scallops topped with bacon strips making more regular appearances than the tubs of Hokkein noodle stir fry or bowls of barbecued lamb with couscous.
In his speech, Michael Chugg, from Chugg Entertainment, mused about the differences between dogs and rock stars. “Dogs can’t talk back. When dogs have a wet nose, it means they’re healthy. When a rock star has a wet nose it usually means they’ve had too much cocaine.
“I can’t wait for the World Dog Games. I’m really excited to be a part of it… I’ve learnt a lot through rock ‘n’ roll, but this is real edu-tainment,” he said.
Cesar Millan was also asked to comment on the Games. “It’s about time. You see horses in the Olympics but not dogs.” he said.
Nestle Purina Pet Care general manager, David Grant, agreed, saying such an event was “long overdue”.
Nestle Purina donated a year’s supply of their premium dog food as the “lucky paw prize”. The winner was literally sniffed out by a Bloodhound, with his handler, from Search Till Found. Just what the dog was sniffing for, and how he determined the winner, we’ll never know.
Guests left with generous “doggie bags” stuffed with a bottle of Preece wine, dog toys and food, books by Cesar Millan and Bondi Vet, Dr Chris Brown along with gift vouchers.
The brainchild of Chugg Entertainment’s Tara King, The World Dog Games will take place at Sydney’s Acer Arena on October 31 and November 1, 2009. The games event will comprise competitions including Flyball, Agility, “Canine Disc” (also known as Freestyle Frisbee) and Dock Diving – like Long Jump, but over water. The Dog Fest will include a breed showcase, exhibitions and shopping.
Organisers plan to eventually take the concept to other countries.