Hair of the Dog

I set my Chihuahua on the bar and ordered a vodka tonic.

I repeat, I set my Chihuahua on the bar and ordered a vodka tonic. How fantastic is that?

Maybe if you’re Paris Hilton you can get away with bringing your dog to a nightclub, but my mutt and I have been run out of more places than I care to remember. Which is why I was at SkyBark, L.A.’s first nightclub/lounge for dogs — and the people who love them enough to pay Fido’s cover charge.

Held periodically at Hangar 1018, an underground art-club space in an industrial part of downtown Los Angeles, SkyBark is an ambitious undertaking even by L.A. nightlife standards.

We began the evening browsing the couture canine carriers and doggie bling in the small rooms set aside for retailers and a silent auction (there’s a different charity at every SkyBark). We sampled doggie vitamin water, had our picture taken by a professional pet photographer and mingled with the stylish crowd, consisting mainly of women in low-cut blouses clutching rat-size pooches to their chests. Then my dog tried humping a Maltese in a rhinestone-studded tank top and I knew it was time to move on.

Next door we found the large gallery space where patrons could look at art while listening to a live rock band. A very loud rock band. Make-the-fillings-in-your-teeth-vibrate-loud rock band. Every dog in the room seemed to be shaking, growling or looking for something to hide under.

“They really didn’t consider their crowd when they booked this band,” one woman complained as she tried to dig her trembling dog out of his Italian leather carrier.

Fortunately the scene on the rooftop deck was more serene, and it was there that the canine party really got started. Dogs frolicked in grassy play areas, lounged on padded benches and mingled freely. No one seemed to feel the need for a leash except for a scantily clad human couple who appeared to have misread the press release. The human partygoers far outnumbered the pooches — many people there didn’t even have a pet, but simply liked the idea of the place.

“Dogs make great drinking buddies!” one woman at the bar explained. I couldn’t have agreed more (see Chihuahua/vodka, above).

The night was not without incident. While the bouncers looked on impassively, there were a few wrestling matches. Some inappropriate sniffing. One small dog did his best to pick a fight with a large Labrador (okay, it was my small dog). Another Chihuahua ignored the grass-covered platforms that had been placed around the event as public restrooms for dogs and lifted his leg on the furniture.

“Well,” said a nearby partier observing the action, “a nightclub is only as good as its clientele.”

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