VERMILION — The birthday hats were on, the treats were given out, “Happy Birthday” was sung and no one peed on the floor.
It was a great time, said bar owner Tom Hug. He shut down his bar, Huggy’s Social House, during prime hours to host a two-hour private event for — well, the way Hug tells it, family: eight golden retrievers celebrating their first birthday.
“It was an absolute riot having all of them here. Quite honestly, they behaved much better than most of our customers,” he said. “Nobody went to the bathroom on the floor, nobody threw up in the bathroom. They were absolutely angels.”
Last spring, Hug got his wife, Jackie, a new puppy for Mother’s Day. The couple already have a few goldens at home, but “I wanted to get this one, this little guy, for Mother’s Day. She was resistant at first, but I knew when she went down and saw him she’d fall in love.”
Hug was right. The fuzzy bundle came home with the Hugs and got a new name: Dublin.
Dublin was one of a litter of eight born to Bessie and Storm at Jane Peterson’s house in Columbia Station.
Peterson doesn’t consider herself a breeder, necessarily.
“I’m more like a grandma who has grandchildren who occasionally need forever homes,” she said. “I’m very, very careful of where my babies go. I’m very picky. I know exactly where all of them are.”
The Hugs stayed in touch with Peterson over the past year, and the idea of a “family reunion” was considered but was delayed until Hug proposed a first birthday party, at his place.
All of the litter went to families throughout Northeast Ohio — and everybody was in.
So on March 30 — the pups were born on Good Friday last year — humans and puppies from Strongsville, Elyria, North Olmsted and Mentor descended on Vermilion.
A friend of Peterson had embroidered bandanas for the pups, seven blue ones for the boys and one pink one for Molly, the only girl in the bunch. Peterson said Molly was born the biggest of the litter but now, a year later, she is the tiniest among her brawny brothers.
“She’s just a tiny little peanut,” Peterson said, with a grandmother’s pride.
Besides Dublin, there are Duke, Lofton, two Jakes, a Benny, and a Jet, whom the Petersons kept.
Jackie Hug made “wag bags” of treats for each pup, and Tom Hug cooked and fed each one half a cheeseburger.
“It was so much fun,” Peterson said. “When we went outside to get the picture of all of them in front of Tom’s Huggy’s sign, I used my schoolteacher-in-the-gym voice and said “sit.” And everybody got in line and they were all sitting.”
“Everybody had a wonderful time. They were so happy to see each other, and everybody said they want to come back,” she said.
“They all came in and they all knew they were family. It was the cutest thing ever. They went crazy for the first 10 minutes and then they sat around, laid around,” Tom Hug said. “You just don’t see something like this happen often and it makes all the other crap worthwhile. And the owners will be like family now, too.”
The “dog parents” have talked about making it a biannual event in the future.
“We’ll probably come back to Huggy’s,” he said. “I told them I don’t care if we do this every weekend. It was that much fun.”