‘A sucker for animals': With dogs in costume, Towson restaurant raises funds for adoptions

Kevin is a lion, at least for tonight. The 2½-year-old mastiff lumbers beneath a high-top table at The Point in Towson wearing a bright orange mane and a smaller tuft of hair on his nub of a tail.

When a small group of other dogs begins to bark and growl across the patio, Kevin stands up as fast as a mastiff his size can and tries to investigate, nearly pulling Sara King, his owner, out of her chair.


King laughs as she braces herself, tugging on Kevin’s rope leash, which is taut to keep him from bounding across the patio and checking out the doggie conflict. Kevin is like a bodyguard, she explains; he can’t help himself.

“He’s good at hugs,” she said.


King and Kevin are just two of the many two- and four-legged customers who celebrated a “Hallow-Weenie Yappy Hour” at the Point in Towson on Thursday, Oct. 24. The restaurant, always dog-friendly, threw the costume party and happy hour to raise money for Operation Paws for Homes, a local dog adoption nonprofit.

“I’m a sucker for animals,” said Erica Russo, the owner. The restaurant throws “Yappy Hours” with some regularity, but this is the first time it held a costumed one, Russo said.

Russo, who also owns The Point in Fells, a bar and restaurant in Fells Point, said she grew up with dogs and volunteered with groups like the Maryland SPCA. But now, besides her two restaurants, she has three kids, including one who still attends Loch Raven High School.

“I don’t have as much time to volunteer as I used to, so this is my way to give back now,” she said.

Russo did not immediately have an estimate for how much money the event raised for Paws for Homes, but said previous fundraisers have brought in more than $1,000.

Operation Paws for Homes does not have a shelter or a physical location, said Jess Goughnour, special events coordinator with the nonprofit. Instead, its network of about 400 active volunteers fosters dogs from the region — as distant as the Carolinas and southern Pennsylvania — until they’re matched with a home.

They house about 1,300 dogs per year, Goughnour said. The organization’s foster system makes sure that all dogs are raised in a home environment.

Goughnour was happy to be at the fundraiser — her own dog, Oscar, was dressed as a cheeseburger — and happy to see the outpouring of support for her organization.

“This is like a dog Halloween party, it’s so much fun,” she said. “These people are showing their support ... We all have the same mission of dog rescue in mind.”

Geoff and Sandy Ott, of Lutherville, adopted their dog (a Great Dane mix named Bowser, dressed as Darth Vader) through Operation Paws for Homes. They heard about the happy hour because they’re on the organization’s mailing list, Geoff Ott said.

The Otts and Bowser had coordinated costumes befitting a Halloween party.

“We’re all Star Wars fans,” said Sandy Ott, dressed as a stormtrooper. “And when you have a dog this big, it’s hard to find a costume that fits properly.”


The costumes almost became a hurdle to the Otts attending the party. Though the couple and their dog had been to the Point in Towson before, and have walked by it even more often, they weren’t aware of the patio in the back.

So when the trio walked in Thursday night, two of them wearing their masks that made it hard to see, Sandy Ott said they worried because they could not see other dogs inside the bar. Organizers said about 40 people and 15 or so dogs attended the Yappy Hour.

After making an Imperial entrance to the patio and finding a table, the Otts took off their masks. At times, Bowser’s Darth Vader cape slipped off his back.

“We had to be, like, funneled back,” Sandy Ott said, laughing.

Dog-friendly dining

The Point in Towson has been open for just over two years on York Road, between the circle and Pennsylvania Avenue. Russo said she tries to do “six or seven” fundraisers per year, usually focusing on benefiting children or animals.

Russo said she has had to “work for everything” she has now, including her two restaurants. Fundraisers are her way of sharing the fruits of her labor, “whether it’s with humans or dogs,” she said. “I believe in karma. Giving back to the community is really important to me.”

When the patio is open during warm weather, dogs are always welcome. Tuesdays at the restaurant are “Date Night with your Dog”; if customers buy a meal, they can get some free food for their canine companion, prepared in-house.

Brooke Novak, a manager and bartender at The Point, said it was “absolutely” the most canine-friendly place she’s ever worked.

When a customer brings a dog and sits on the patio, she said, it’s a safe bet that patrons and staff alike will try and peek out to see. Novak’s own dog, Kalani, a black lab and beagle mix who just turned 3, was dressed in a rainbow tutu and leg warmers, an homage to the ’80s and LGBTQ rights, Novak said.

“And in Hawaiian, her name means ‘Gift from God,’” Novak added.

Russo’s dogs weren’t at the Yappy Hour; she lives in Fells Point now, and her dogs wouldn’t have anywhere to stay during setup. But the owner of The Point in Towson said she gets excited for dog events “like it’s Christmas morning.”

Russo said she believes that people reap what they sow, that all the work she and others at The Point put in to raising money for various charities will come back to them.

But “it’s not even a monetary thing for me,” she said. “It’s a good feeling.”

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