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Sixth annual Yappy Hour brings pets and owners to a bar

MORRIS – Growling, howling and barking filled Clayton’s Tap on Thursday night as the bar welcomed some unusual patrons.

“You know, bringing your dog to a bar is really a unique thing,” said Bonnie Latta, organizer of the Yappy Hour, Morris’ only happy hour for dogs.

People and their pups filled the bar for the sixth annual doggy happy hour organized by Latta and local pet retailer, Blackbird’s Bowl. The event is the only time when local dog owners are allowed, and encouraged, to bring their pets with them to the bar.

“I think it’s good for them,” said Sarah Lee, owner of Charlie, a black and white mini Schnauzer. “Charlie’s a lot better with other dogs now. It’s made him more social.”

While this event did not offer doggy beer, as past doggy hours have, it did provide free treat samples from Blackbird’s Bowl.

On display were doggy cupcakes, made gluten-free and allergy friendly, as well as Blackbird’s trademark treat, Mountain Dog Savor Snaps.

For the first time in Yappy Hour, Blackbird’s Bowl raffled off a dog gift basket full of homemade goodies.

“We want to educate people about healthier alternatives for their dogs, but the main goal of this event is for people to just have fun,” said Sara Martinez, event coordinator for Blackbird’s Bowl.

The pet store has helped organize the event for the past three years.

Martinez said Blackbird’s Bowl is creating its own doggy brew to serve at future yappy hours.

“We definitely want to stay involved with this event,” Martinez said.

Latta organizes two happy hours each year, one in the spring and one in the fall, each bringing out 20 to 30 people.

She got the idea for a doggy happy hour when she lived in Tulsa, Okla., and saw a local bakery hosting a meet and greet for pets and their owners. Owners sipped drinks while the dogs enjoyed special treats.

“I knew the Darlingtons because I trained Ace, their dog, so I thought it would be fun to do something here at a bar,” Latta said.

Scott and Lois Darlington own Clayton’s Tap and have hosted the happy hours for six years.

This year, Clayton’s Tap began offering mini hot dogs and 2 ounce burgers for the dogs and continued to offer food and drink deals for pet owners.

“The event keeps growing each year,” Lois Darlington said. “People at the front of the bar don’t seem to be bothered by the dogs, so it’s worked out nicely.”

Darlington and Latta said the chance to socialize is the main reason people keep showing up.

“We want people to come out and meet other owners and give the dogs a chance to socialize,” Latta said.

And socialize they did. Dogs of all breeds – from Schnauzers to shih tzu to Shetlands – chased, sniffed and played with each other. One attendee – a Huskie and Boxer mix named Tank – even has his own Facebook page that has more than 400 friends.

“It’s just a lot of fun,” said Grace Mertes, proud owner of Wyatt, a 7-year-old English bulldog. “We love it.”

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