By Jenny Berg Posted November 16, 2009, 2:36 PM EST
CHICAGO On Friday night, more than 600 guests gathered at the Drake Hotel for the Fur Ball. Hosted by Pets Are Worth Saving, the benefit is billed as the city's only pet-friendly black-tie function, which proved an irresistible selling point for some dog lovers with deep pockets. “This is one of the only events I buy tickets for anymore,” said one attendee, nodding at his rhinestone-collared companion. ”It's the only ball I can bring her to.”
With tickets priced at $400 per guest and $100 per animal, the event had amenities that catered to both its two-legged and four-legged attendees. At the entrance, photographers clustered around a red carpet with a step-and-repeat backdrop, snapping photos of donors with their pets. In the hotel's French and Walton rooms, where the cocktail reception and silent auction took place, servers circulated with avocado egg rolls and mushroom phyllo purses while volunteers bustled about with silver water bowls, which they placed near the bars in each room. In the French room, Kehoe's lounge setups featured sleek sofas and bright orange floor pillows, and animal communicator Alicia Halloran conducted one-on-one consultations with pets and their owners.
Plastic sheeting covered the floor in an upstairs area devoted to spa services for dogs—technicians from Paradise 4 Paws were on hand to provide so-called “pawdicures” and canine massages—but the precaution was taken just to be on the safe side, according to Pets Are Worth Saving's director of development Lisa Nowak. “The dogs are always well-behaved,” she said. “Every year we may have one little accident; but really, the only logistical hurdle of having all the dogs there is that they add a lot more feet walking around. We have to make sure there's plenty of room for everybody.”
Indeed, apart from a few stray barkers who added to the hum of clinking cocktail glasses and live piano music, the pets made for polite guests. “I think my wife would say that the dogs are better-behaved than the husbands,” one man remarked.
On the day before the event, Nowak said that she expected the ball to pull in more than $600,000 dollars. “We're right on target with ticket sales and sponsorships,” she said, adding that she was also counting on the live and silent auctions to help bring in funds. “In our board and committee meetings leading up to the event, we just kept putting the message out: This has been a really tough year for everyone, and we understand that, but we really need those who can to step it up. And our sponsors and donors rose to the occasion.”