I woof you.” “You’re Purr-fect!” “Valentine, You’re Tweet!”
Valentine’s Day is not just for humans anymore. Animal lovers, together with their “hairier halfs,” showed just how much they love each other last Saturday at Petco’s Valentine’s Day Pet Party in the River Forest Town Center.
“It’s the first time we have had a Valentine’s Day party,” said Ursula Bailey, who has been a team manager at the store for seven years. In addition to the customary toys and treats, she has special seasonal merchandise that is going fast.
“We have little fake diamond initials to put on fancy collars, red coats, heart sweaters, even little winter shoes,” says Jabali Price, who has been a Petco employee for over 10 years. He says their customers really love to celebrate holidays with their pets.
“At the Christmas holidays, people bought reindeer and angel costumes,” he said. Because Petco invites customers to bring their people-friendly pets with them, Price and Bailey say they know many of the pets by name. Most of the pets that come into the store are well-behaved customers but Bailey says there is one in particular she is less than happy about. “Ooh, there’s this beagle-he always soaks the welcome mat. He lifts his leg on a large sack of dog food and then poops right there in the back. The owner just comes to us and says, ‘Isn’t there anyone to clean this up?'” Price sighs, “Doesn’t he know he is ruining about $40 worth of products?”
In spite of the beagle, Price and Bailey are confirmed animal lovers, and their affection showed at the party. Romeo, a tiny Yorkie accompanied by owner Jamie Gagliano of Elmwood Park, came dressed in a festive red sweater.
Feisty 14-year-old Annabelle, a fit dachshund, took an immediate liking to Daisy, a fluffy white Maltese, and a strong dislike of Reagan, an affable mixed breed. “You’d be upset too if you got bit in the fanny-twice-by a big dog when you were a puppy,” said Sharon Faerber of Forest Park. Annabelle wore a jaunty red collar and enjoyed her lofty perch in her owner’s arms. “Annabelle won the Halloween dog costume contest in Oak Park,” Faerber says proudly. “She was dressed as a hot dog and wore a bun costume.”
Ruby, a well-fed 4-year-old Dalmatian, was accompanied by 10-year-old Rachel Bovey, who lives in Oak Park. “We were in my hometown of Sioux City, Iowa, taking a riding lesson, and my daughter commented aloud how much she wished she had the owner’s Dalmation,” recalled Rachel’s mother. “To my surprise, the owner came out with a Dalmatian puppy and offered it to my daughter.” The Boveys named her Ruby Sioux, after her hometown.
“We have 10-inch, heart-shaped cookies made of wheat and such for the dog owners to decorate with peanut butter,” noted Bailey of the party refreshments. Bovey and another 10-year-old girl from Mann School loaded Ruby’s cookie with a few inches from a “Kong Stuff’n” aerosol can of peanut butter.
“Happy V-Day Daisy” wrote Daisy’s owner, Christine Pendleton, in peanut butter. Janiya Cobbins led her 5-month-old Yorkie “Cody” shyly into the party area.
The little dog quivered in his owner’s arms as she held him protectively. Each owner had a Polaroid taken together with her dog and received it in a keepsake Petco Valentine’s Day frame. “Smile,” said the Petco photographer, clicking a noisemaker, as each pet and owner knelt in front of a red backdrop.
“Daisy loves to dance too,” said Pendleton of her fluffy white pet, outfitted in a fashionable holiday sweater. Pendleton wiggled her fingers in the air above Daisy’s head and the little dog rose on her rear legs and began a pirouette, much to the crowd’s amazement.
But the highlight of the party was the kissing contest, an event only a pet owner could appreciate. Each owner was given a minute to encourage her dog to “kiss” or lick her face. Most dogs, after an initial period of panic and bewilderment, obliged with sloppy pink tongues. Their owners kissed and hugged their little pets right back.
Third place went to little Cody, second to Daisy, the crowd favorite, and first to Reagan. Bailey brought out a large plastic tub of water for the pets to wet their whistles, now dry from so much kissing-that is to say, face licking.
In addition to their photographs, all owners received complimentary goodie bags with Frisbees, scarves, balls and dog cookies.