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Party animal, re-defined

Hyderabad, May 11: The orchestra played and the TV cameras rolled. The candles on the cake were blown out to a round of applause. Under the chandeliers, surrounded by beaming men and women in bright dresses, the star of the evening gazed at her plate of ice-cream, chocolates and a large bone and gave out a contented “woof”.

Welcome to Hyderabad, the city which has given the phrase “party animal” a whole new meaning. Where some 150 “function halls” now cater to the glitterati’s latest craze for throwing birthday bashes or wedding parties for their Fidos and Simbas.

And where the guest lists are apt to feature Dalmatians and Doberman Pinschers, while poor two-legged you and me are welcome only as escorts.

With the city boasting 90,000 pets for its population of 75 lakh, the parties are big business.

The media has jumped on to the bandwagon. “The local TV channels cover these events like they would any celebrity event,” said Govind Raj Mathur, who works with an agency that organises parties for pets.

“It’s good business,” agreed Ayub Khan, a hall owner in Mehdipatnam, who organises such parties every weekend, each attended by over 50 animals and their escorts.

The halls are hired out for Rs 2,000. The guests have their own bill of fare, separate from their escorts’.

“A pet’s plate is priced at between Rs 50 and Rs 75 (including bones, dog food, grilled chicken and the choicest ice-creams and chocolate),” Khan said. “For the escorts, it’s simpler ' usually a plate of biryani and a bowl of soup.”

Most organisers, however, try to limit the number of guests to, say, 20. “We don’t want them to start barking ' all the dogs together ' or get unruly,” said Ramakrishna, a pet shop owner.

“Most of the clients are either of nawabi lineage or military officers who have orderlies to handle the dogs,” said Dilaware Khan, a pet shop owner.

Mumtaz Ali Khan, who traces her ancestry to the erstwhile Nizam, celebrated her Doberman’s birthday last Saturday. Some 22 animals and 31 escorts attended the party, for which an orchestra and two entertainers were hired.

“There were gift hampers for all the guests. It cost her almost Rs 23,000,” said Safida Bee, one of the escorts.

“The city is merely keeping up the legacy of the Nizam,” said Imtiaz Khan , an event manager. The last Nizam, Mahboob Ali Pasha , had nearly 700 dogs.

With the money rolling in, a whole industry looks likely to grow up around the pets. Dr Muralidhar, a vet from Begumpet who specialises in pet parties, is ready to open a parlour for dogs and cats.

“It will offer healthcare and bodycare for the pets,” he said, adding that special equipment for trimming their nails and hair have been imported from the US and Europe.

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