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Restaurant fundraisers promote pet causes

By MICHELLE LOCKE / For The Associated Press Published: May 25, 2012

Restaurants are going to the dogs... and the cats, and various other friends of the four-legged variety.

From Doggie Happy Hours to seasonal dinners raising money for animal charities, the white tablecloth set is serving up a little pet philanthropy.

The eat well, do good movement marries two trends — the fascination with things furry (kitten videos, anyone?) as well as our nearly insatiable appetite for great, memorable food.

"I think we're a good match with a lot of charitable events because of the nature of our business," points out Ron Patak, vice president of student operations at Culinard, the Culinary Institute of Virginia College, which runs the Kitchen on George restaurant in Mobile, Ala.

So, when Kitchen on George opened late last year, it decided to throw a "Pooches on the Patio" event to benefit the Mobile SPCA. The event — which indeed featured pooches quite literary on the restaurant's patio — was such a success, the restaurant repeated it this spring, drawing 80 to 100 people and about 15 dogs.

Guests donated $25 for admission to the party, which included wine, cheese and hors d'oeuvres, and the SPCA brought along animals in need of homes. The visiting dogs were well behaved, money was raised for the SPCA and three homeless dogs were adopted, the same number as were adopted in the earlier fundraiser, says Patak.

A little further up the East Coast, dogs are welcome at regular Doggie Happy Hours in the courtyard of the Jackson 20 restaurant at Hotel Monaco-Alexandria near Washington, D.C. The restaurant also has been hosting "Bitch & Whine" tastings featuring the libations of Virginia vineyards to benefit local pet charities. And at Halloween they put on a Doggie Happy Howl-o-ween costume contest with registration and door donations going to the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria.

The Hotel Monaco-Alexandria is seriously pet friendly. If you can't bring Fido they'll lend you a goldfish. And it's not the only hotel unleashing a little animal love.

At Rosewood Sand Hill south of San Francisco, the hotel's Michelin-starred Madera restaurant has an annual Easter celebration that includes a brunch and a petting zoo on the hotel lawn. Proceeds from the petting zoo admission benefit the Palo Alto Humane Society.

Wineries also have a long tradition of supporting animal charities, with the latest in the wine-canine connection coming via Frenchie Winery at Raymond Vineyards in the Napa Valley.

Billed as the only tasting room designed exclusively for dogs, Frenchie Winery is named after winery proprietor Jean-Charles Boisset's French bulldog. It features five kennel spaces boasting wine barrel dog beds with an outdoor play area and a tasting bar that dispenses water. Meanwhile, guests tasting wine in the human tasting room can keep an eye on the whole thing by doggie-cam.

Plans are under way for events including mobile pet grooming and pet adoption, and donations are being made through wines featuring Frenchie on the label dressed as historical figures — current releases include the 2009 Frenchie Napoleon Red Blend and 2009 Frenchie Louis XIV Cabernet Sauvignon. A dollar for every bottle of Frenchie wine produced in 2012 will be donated to the ASPCA.

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