Wynton is socializing and table-hopping as he waits for his meal at La Bodega Tapas & Lounge in Leawood.
He’s out on the patio with his parents, Daniel and Nikki Ogle of Raymore, who look over the menu as Wynton eyes the server bringing him his entrée: a plate of grilled bread with cream cheese, chicken, broccoli and Parmesan. He digs in — cream cheese all over his mouth, a smile on his face and his tail wagging.
Oh, Wynton is a West Highland terrier.
The Ogles and Wynton are taking in Dogs Night Out, a special treat that Three Dog Bakery hosts with various restaurants around town a few times a year. Tonight’s event features a four-course meal for the dogs and a full menu available for the humans. All told, 54 dogs and 80 humans are here over two seatings for $20 per pooch.
“We have a small place right now, and we always look for opportunities to get out of the house,” Daniel says. Wynton is “cramped up all day long, and this gave us a good excuse for a date night and something we could bring him to.”
Even though Wynton is out of his puppy years, he is still lively. Throughout his meal he is barking, sniffing and exploring.
“He has a lot of energy,” Nikki says. “He sleeps through the night now, which is a great thing, even though he wakes up at 6 every morning.”
The woman behind that four-course dog meal is Sarah Deters, corporate executive chef for Three Dog Bakery, the Kansas City-based, multimillion-dollar upscale dog food and treat company. At its 40 bakeries worldwide, including stores on the Country Club Plaza and in Leawood, customers can buy their pets such treats as strawberry crèmes and blueberry muffin wafers, both $6.99 per package.
After working as a pastry chef for years, Deters walked into a Three Dog Bakery and said, “I’m doing this someday.” She has been with the company for eight years.
For Dogs Night Out, she bases the dogs’ menu on the restaurants, which have included McCormick & Schmick’s and the Fairmont-Kansas City. To go with the Spanish cuisine at La Bodega, tonight’s dog menu features a yappatizer basket, grilled bread, chicken paw-ella and a churro cinnamon cake slice. Bonus: Her husband, Nathan Deters, is the chef there.
“It’s even more fun to do this at La Bodega because I know the restaurant and the staff,” Sarah says. “These events are a lot of work, but they’re fun. It’s totally worth all the effort.”
Sarah, who has three dogs, two cats and two foster puppies with her husband, says all different kinds of dogs and humans attend — “younger people who think their dogs are like their kids, and older people who have kids out of the house and now they have their dogs. It’s a really good mix of people.”
Two of those people are Georgia and Amber Proctor of Kansas City, Kan., who have came with dogs Toto, an 11-year-old cairn terrier, and Jasmine, a 10-year-old border collie mix. They have three other dogs at home but decided the two oldest deserved the night out the most.
“There are so many dogs out there that don’t have anybody,” Georgia says. “They’re just living in these kennels and these shelters, and adopting them frees up space for more dogs to be rescued.”
Amber, who works at the Humane Society of Greater Kansas City, found Toto at a puppy mill.
“The mill she was in was basically hell,” Amber says. “She had been kept in a kennel and bred until she was 18 months old. Then the puppy mill was shut down and she was rescued.”
But Toto’s hell wasn’t over. Amber worked with Toto every day to help her overcome her fears.
“For a long time I couldn’t get her to stay around me,” Amber says. “I had to keep her on a leash so I could find her, and eventually I had to tether her to me so she could get used to human contact. She would only want to be in the darkest, smallest spot.”
Amber thought Toto could never attend an event with so many dogs and people. But here Toto is, sitting on the ground next to Jasmine, alert to her surroundings but comfortable below Amber.
Libby and Charles Weatherman of Lee’s Summit have been to several Dogs Night Out events with Truman, their 8-year-old Goldendoodle named after the University of Missouri mascot, Truman the Tiger. They rescued Truman in Joplin after he was abandoned by a breeder. Libby says Truman is smart and human-like, and he gets to go to work with Charles almost every day.
“Kansas City is very dog-friendly, especially Overland Park and the Plaza,” Libby says as Truman waits patiently for his food to be served. “There are so many shops and restaurants that welcome dogs, and we like to bring him with us as much as we can.” Truman sits up and perks his ears when Libby calls his name to give him apple wafers with spinach dipping sauce.
Catherine Coakley, who recently moved to Overland Park from Wichita, says she looks for restaurants where she can bring Stella, her 2-year-old boxer.
“I love being able to go out with her,” Coakley says. “I feel bad that I’m gone all day at work and she’s at home. And I feel bad if I leave to go out, so it’s fun that I can get to bring her with me.”
A co-worker gave Stella to Coakley when the 6-month-old puppy became a little too rambunctious. Coakley’s previous boxer had just died, and it seemed the perfect time for a new dog.
“She is a handful, but she’s very fun and she’s very sweet,” Coakley says as Stella happily scarfs down her paella, er paw-ella: chicken, green beans, tomatoes, turmeric and rice.
Dogs Night Out is meant for fun and food for both dogs and humans, but it’s for a good cause. Twenty percent of proceeds go to the Three Dog Bakery Foundation, which benefits local no-kill shelters, the local Humane Society, the Kansas City Pet Telethon and other local animal charities.
“At these events I get to interact with the different dogs and people, which I love,” Sarah said. “But it also raises money to help local animals, and that’s most important.”