Hollywood's Kimpton Everly Hotel has seen many parties celebrating Tinseltown's top dogs, but none like this.
Guide dogs for the blind usually accompany their owners wherever they lead, but Thursday the opposite was true. The guide dogs were VIP guests at the party organized by Natural Balance Dog Food, and the humans where their plus-ones.
Serving staff passed around hors d'oeuvres; cookies were for humans, and the cupcakes were for the guests of honor: the dogs.
September is National Guide Dog month, created by Natural Balance founder Dick Van Patten, and the company has donated 6 million dollars to guide dog schools. At Thursday's party, the company awarded retiring guide dogs certificates, bowls engraved with their names and years of service, and a lifetime of dog food which they playfully call a "401(k)-9."
The guests talked to each other about how their guide dogs make life easier, and the concept of "intelligent disobedience" which is special training for the pupers. For example, the dogs must refuse to cross a street when a car is coming despite his owner telling him to walk. The owners also said having a guide dog help many of them socialize in what can often be a very isolating disability.
Among the guests in attendance was American Para-Olympian, Danelle Umstead, and her guide dogs. Umstead was diagnosed at age 13 with retinitis pigmentosa, which is a genetic eye condition that caused her to go blind. She recently announced she would be a cast member on the new season of "Dancing with the Stars." Her new guide dog, Aziza, has accompanied her to all her dance training sessions in the last few weeks to prepare for her debut on the show premiering Monday.