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Danville Express

Column - May 23, 2008

Diablo Views: Hot dogs strut their stuff

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

On Sunday, 101 Dalmatians gathered on the steps of the Museum of the San Ramon Valley. OK, there were only 18 but it seemed like a lot. It was the Blemie look-alike contest, Blemie being the beloved pet Dalmatian of playwright Eugene O'Neill and his wife Carlotta, who lived in the Danville hills from 1937-44. The Dalmatian contest kicked off the new exhibit at the Museum, "Eugene O'Neill's Global Legacy."

The contest was fun, not least of all because I was one of the judges. Which goes to show how un-serious the competition was. The other judges were Councilwoman Karen Stepper, who brought along her cute little 7-month-old grandson Jack, whom she was babysitting while his parents took part in a triathlon; Dani Brozowski, who manages Pet Food Express in Danville and donated a Frisbee to every participant; and Do Kang, owner of HandWorks artisan consignment shop, who gave a Perfect Petzzz stuffed Dalmatian to the winner.

Let me tell you, judging is hard - I wanted to give a prize to each one. We sat down at the judges' table with blown up photos of Blemie in front of us, carefully studying his coloration. As organizer Linda Stolow called out their names, one by one, the Dalmatian owners led their dogs across the "stage" while members of the audience clapped appreciatively. Surprisingly, only one of them was named Spot, but he goes by Spottie. He had a poodle friend with him named Bubbles, who was wearing a paw-printed black and white ribbon to indicate she was a Dalmatian wannabe. As the dogs were introduced we made notes about their spots - quantity and location. Then we got up to mingle with the Dalmatians to check out their spots once again and to interact with them, because there was also a prize given for friendliness.

We finally narrowed it down to three: First place went to Raider, a 4-year-old rescued dog; second place was Daisy, a sweet 12-1/2-year old; and third place was won by Classy, who was only 1 but very well behaved and led by several charming young ladies. Next came the prize for friendly and that was tough because they were all friendly. Well, they are dogs! We judges all took note of a friendly dog named Pebbles, a 3-1/2-year-old rescued female, and were favorably impressed by her sweetness and sociability so she won the prize.

Last, but hardly least, was a prize for being funny or fun or goofy or whatever. This was to make the contest inclusive for the Dalmatian wannabes. For this prize, we chose Howie. I guess he was a Dalmatian but he had little tiny dots. He won because his tail was thumping double-time - and when introduced he sort of "talked."

Mayor Candace Andersen showed up with her dog Lu who is a Dalmatian but bears little resemblance to Blemie. Lu is short for Lucentio, said Candace, because her family names its pets after Shakespeare characters, a custom begun by her grandfather. Growing up in Hawaii, Candace had three Dalmatians named Ophelia, Hamlet and Portia. Also, her husband Phil played the part in "Kiss Me Kate," the Cole Porter adaptation of "The Taming of the Shrew," when he was at Monte Vista.

Linda, who owns Small Fry Shoppe a few blocks away on Railroad Avenue, did a great job organizing the contest. She helped out the last time it was held, two years ago, so she knew the ropes - like making it fun, and providing lots of water for the dogs in case it was hot. And, yes, it was hot.

Blemie O'Neill - now doesn't that sound like a fun-loving, hard-livin' bloke? - was really named Silverdene Emblem O'Neill. Eugene wrote a last will and testament for him just before Blemie died at an old age in December 1940. It concludes: "Whenever you visit my grave, say to yourselves with regret but also with happiness in your hearts at the remembrance of my long happy life with you: 'Here lies one who loved us and whom we loved.' No matter how deep my sleep I shall hear you, and not all the power of death can keep my spirit from wagging a grateful tail."

-Dolores Fox Ciardelli can be e-mailed at editor@DanvilleWeekly.com.

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