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Woofing it up for bucks and bones

Canine lovers put on the dog at San Francisco fund-raiser

By Helyn Trickey
Special to CNN

A Great Dane keeps an eye on the buffet table at a benefit for the San Francisco Society for the Prevention and Cruelty to Animals.

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SAN FRANCISCO, California (CNN) -- Cleo clings with her tiny pink toenails to her owner's strapless leopard skin print gown. The woman teeters on the dance floor in impossibly high metallic heels.

The dachshund's soulful brown eyes widen on a high note as her tiny body, strapped with a pair of angel wings, is lovingly dipped at the apex of the song, "Why Do Dogs Fall in Love?"

"Don't you just love to see people dancing with their dogs?" Dianna Orlandi-Wong asks.

She watches the dance floor as she lovingly cradles a small white dog with pink ears as large as satellite dishes. The pup's name is Stella Luna after the big-eared bat of the same name made popular in children's books.

"I love to see people with their pets. I just hope they treat their kids as well," Orlandi-Wong says as she strokes Stella's chin.

San Franciscans love their pets, and there is no better place to see them fawn over their Fidos than at the Bark & Whine Ball each February.

The eighth annual black-tie ball, produced by Critter Lovers at Work, or CLAW, to benefit the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' Cinderella Fund, is a fund-raiser with bite.

To dine and dance with their canines, partygoers plunk down between $75 and $450 per person. Supporters with four legs pay $20 to get in the door.

This year's catered event raised more than $70,000 and will allow the San Francisco group to provide thousands of critically ill animals with the veterinary care they need to recover and become adoptable, says CLAW President Michele Stamatopoulos.

"Tonight is a nice blend of a fund-raiser with a great party," Stamatopoulos says. "People have an awesome time bringing their dogs."

Adjusting her pooch Chula's tiara, Camille Vitale says, "I think it's a blast." Vitale's Chihuahua cocks her head to one side as she watches a Harlequin Great Dane with a diamond ankle bracelet glittering on each paw prance past. "But I bring her everywhere anyway," Vitale says. "Here I don't have to sneak her in!"

Studying the sushi

Underneath a shimmering disco ball, the Dick Bright Orchestra floods the ballroom with Sinatra standards, and noses -- human and otherwise -- sniff out the three buffet lines.

After a long night on the dance floor, this dog takes it easy.

Wrinkled sibling Shar-Peis, Abby and Bosco, watch the food line with the precision of twin sharpshooters. Their eyes are focused, breath held as a man selects a pot sticker and puts it on his plate. Their heads droop as they realize the treat is not going to be shared.

Spenser the black standard poodle has more luck.

"He likes the food," says owner Nathan Becker. Together they sit at a table draped with white linen and decorated with sequined party hats. The two study a plate of exotic-looking sushi.

"I like the food," Becker says as he selects a treat for himself. Spenser's eyes follow the trajectory of the morsel into his owner's mouth, and he licks his chops.

"We like the food," Becker continues as Spenser accepts the next bite with measured aplomb.

A dog never had it so good.

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