For this year’s Doggies on the Catwalk, the 12th annual fashion show fundraiser for three pet charities, the dogs will be walking not with models but with their owners.
While the event will still include models wearing the latest Saks Fifth Avenue fashions, it will also include human beings walking or riding in wheelchairs down the runway with their dogs from Canine Assistants, a Milton-based nonprofit that pairs service dogs with human beings who need them.
“There’s a bond that the service dog has with their owner that you miss when the service dog walks with the model. That’s part of the reason why our guests see the dogs partnered with their recipient and not with the model (as in past years),” said Vincent Martinez, the event’s founder.
Doggies on the Catwalk will take place June 1 at 7 p.m. at Greenberg Traurig’s penthouse office on the 25th floor of the Terminus 200 building in Buckhead. Emceed by Tad Lemire and Kara Wilson of “Tad & Drex Mornings” on B98.5 FM, it will include a cocktail reception with passed hors d’oeuvres, fashion show and opportunities to hold and have photos taken with puppies. Guests will also have the chance to get makeup touchups and sample a variety of fragrances from Dior.
Martinez said the event has evolved from “very humble beginnings” to “a very upscale production featuring high-end fashions as a runway show.”
“We started at a high school gymnasium,” he said. “I created this in my Grady High School fashion class as part of its fashion design program. Twelve years later we’re still doing this, benefiting way more than we ever did and drawing way more people than it ever did.
“(TV and radio personalities) Monica Pearson, Leslie Fram and Mara Davis jumped on board. Year 1 my students made the costumes for the dogs and the human models wore their own clothes. By Year 12 it was Prada, Oscar de la Renta and Yves Saint Laurent.”
Martinez said last year’s event drew 300 attendees and raised $80,000. He is expecting as many guests this year and hopes to collect more than in 2018.
Doggies on the Catwalk will benefit mainly Canine Assistants but also Fix Georgia Pets, a Sandy Springs-based nonprofit that works with recognized low-cost spay/neuter organizations to combat the significant pet overpopulation in the state, and Pets Are Loving Support (PALS), an Atlanta-based nonprofit providing ongoing care and support to the pets of metro Atlantans with HIV/AIDS and other terminal illnesses and the elderly.
Martinez said he hopes to raise enough money to fund the cost of at least one Canine Assistants service dog for its lifetime, which totals $31,000. Grace Murphy, Canine Assistants’ director of development, said Doggies on the Catwalk, which it’s partnered with since 2016, has had a major impact on the organization.
“Doggies on the Catwalk is a very large event for us, and basically we’ve been able to fully sponsor five service dogs through them, for the life of the dog,” she said. “Once the dog is placed with a recipient, and we also handle, if needed, the after-care.”
Murphy said the event also raises awareness for Canine Assistants, which may not be well known outside of the north Fulton area.
“It’s really great because not only the location of the event is in the city, but the demographic of the people who attend (it) are also from Buckhead and Midtown and the surrounding areas,” she said. “Being located in Milton, that can be a challenge to reach people beyond those north of Atlanta because of our location. It’s been a huge event for us and our mission and what we do.”
Martinez hosts another event, Doggies on the BeltLine, Oct. 27 at Ponce City Market in Atlanta, where anyone can bring their dog and dress up for a Halloween parade.
Tickets to Doggies on the Catwalk range from $95 to $250. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.doggiesonthecatwalk.org.