Haute dog: Vail Valley local Carey Salvin is a Tinseltown hit with Canine Companions for Independence
For more information about Canine Companions for Independence or to donate, visit http://www.cci.org.
LOS ANGELES — A local girl is the top dog in L.A. because she said “yes” to the dress.
Carey Salvin, vice president of the nation’s only junior chapter of Canine Companions for Independence (Payton Connolly is president; both are Vail Mountain School students), rolled into Los Angeles for the Haute Dog Gala and rolled out with bagfuls of memories.
And before we go any further, it’s pronounced “Hot Dog” Gala.
It’s an annual benefit for Canine Companions for Independence. It trains assistance dogs for children, adults and veterans with disabilities. It has six training centers across the country.
The Vail Valley is home to two chapters, one for adults and the country’s only junior chapter, which begins to explain how Salvin ended up on a fashion show runway in Los Angeles, positively resplendent in a dress fashioned from dog leashes and dog poop bags and in the company of Tawny the Wonderdog.
Because Funway is fun
The junior chapter made the dress for Project Funway, an annual benefit for local schools. About the only Project Funway rule is that you have to make your dress from some sort of nontraditional material. Things such as Post-It notes and grade cards are popular.
The local junior Canine Companions for Independence chapter created its entry from intertwined dog leashes on top — blue and yellow, Canine Companion’s colors. The bottom is blue and yellow poop bags poofed up into flowers and attached with blue dog leashes. More blue and yellow dog leashes held it all together to complete the ensemble.
The organization did not win Project Funway, but the locals decided it and its dress were not done.
Hooray for Hollywood
The Funway runway led them to the seventh annual L.A. Howl-oween Disco Doggie Fashion Show benefit for Canine Companions for Independence, at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles.
Most people would send a photo of the dress and a description to the Canine Companions national headquarters in Santa Rosa, California. The local kids did one better. They sent the entire dress.
The head of the L.A. chapter was hosting the Howl-oween fundraiser, saw the dress, wanted it in their show and Salvin in the dress.
“The people in California saw it and asked me to be part of it,” Salvin said. “They thought it would be fun for the same person who wore it in Vail to wear it in L.A.”
So they called Salvin’s mom, Gail Flesher, who thought about it for a short expanse of time.
“We have a lot of family and friends there. It sounded like fun,” Flesher said.
A couple of Salvin’s aunts came from Northern California. They filled a table with family and friends and had a blast.
Because it’s L.A., it attracted lots of celebrities.
John O’Hurley led a panel of celebrity judges including Paul Shaffer, Laraine Newman and Gary Anthony Williams. Celebrity contestants included Rose Abdoo and her dog Monkey, Michael Nouri and his dog Charlie, Sonia Montejano and her dog Lola, Ari Seth Cohen and his dog Fancy Schmancy.
Fashion show emcees JP Karliak and Kate Luhr had a field day with Salvin’s dress with lines such as: “This dress is starting a new movement, as in bowel movement.”
Hollywood professionals did Salvin’s hair and makeup and got her ready for her L.A. debut.
“I was excited. It wasn’t super stressful. It was fun,” Salvin said.
Her runway companion was equally relaxed. Tawny is a golden retriever and Canine Companions graduate.
Everyone walked the runway with a dog, as the panel of celebrity judges announced their choices for things such as Most Glamorous, Most Disco-ie and, finally, Best in Show.
Salvin and Tawny made the Best in Show finals, along with their esteemed and worthy opponents — a woman and her dog dressed as Sandy and Danny from Grease.
They both walked the runway again, and after the judges reportedly got into a fuss about who should win, they decided the crowd should make the choice. It was close but clear.
“The judge pointed to me and said, ‘Best in Show,’” Salvin said.
You’ve seen the local Canine Companions chapters walking in Vail’s Fourth of July parade and likely heard about their gala in Beaver Creek, raising awareness and money. Junior chapter members do things such as babysitting nights and individual fundraising.
“That’s one of the reasons that the dogs cost nothing for the people who get them,” Salvin said.
Seth Molina helped found the junior chapter after he raised a puppy for Canine Companions for his bar mitzvah project.
“He fell in love with the organization but couldn’t join because he was too young,” Connolly said.
So they started their junior chapter. Connolly was a founding member. Salvin joined a short time later. The organization is up to 11 members and would love to have more, Salvin said.
Canine Companions’ dogs — mostly golden retrievers and Labs — are put through a year of intense training, beginning with puppy school. They start with a family, and when they’re done, they can perform more than 50 commands. They’re sent to people with disabilities, veterans with PTSD … all sorts of people who need them.
“The dogs do about everything from pay at the grocery store to turning out the lights,” Connolly said. “They’re incredible, and they do things for incredible people who have done so much.”
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.