Only in Florida: Baseball. Wonderland. And A WWE Smackdown.

National Pet Week is May 1 through May 7, and all across Florida, dogs have multiple entertainment options in which to celebrate. And that’s great news for their human companions who may be looking for a little something different to do.

Tomorrow night (April 29), Return to Wonderland is one of the most anticipated events of the year, bringing together more than 50 artists who will be displaying their work and talents. It is billed as an “Escape Down the Rabbit Hole For a Night You Will Never Forget.” Hosted by Barkin heARTS, the event starts at 8p and will go on until 2a at The Heights Tampa, 1910 North Ola Avenue, Tampa. A benefit for the SPCA of Tampa Bay, it promises to be daring, glitzy and fun. Contact Johnna at 813.541.2328. Up and coming artists, there is still time to get in under the wire to display your work. Don’t be late for this very important date.

Another fun event that we dog lovers have been looking forward to is the 2nd Annual Pet Fashion Show and 2012 Calendar Kick Off Pawty, Saturday, April 30. Hosted by Paw Paws Pet Boutique and The New Barker, the event starts at 10a with registration, followed by the Pet Fashion Show. Westfield Countryside Mall is allowing dogs within the Mall for this fabulous fashion event of the year. The best part, dogs do not have to be in costume to participate. Just bring their pet pizzazz and personality. Proceeds will benefit the Humane Society of Pinellas, with an opportunity for your dog’s photo to appear on the cover of their 2012 calendar. For more information, email or call 727.797.7722, ext. 222.

Across the Bay Area, (also on Saturday, April 30) it’s a WWE Smackdown with Superstar Christian signing autographs and mugging for the camera, all to benefit St. Francis Society Animal Rescue. There will be adorable adoptables on site (cats and dogs) from Noon until 5p at Citrus Park, 12835 Citrus Plaza Drive, Tampa. For more information call St. Francis Society Animal Rescue at 813.830.7251.

Also on Saturday in Jacksonville, the Ratbone Rescues group is having their annual reunion and fundraiser at Dogwood Park from 9a until 6p. Or, if you happen to be in Lakeland, come out to support the Humane Society of Polk County at The Doggie Bag. Their April Concert Series comes to a close with a Gala Wine Tasting, with wine donated by The New Barker for the cause. Call 863.683.6220 for more information. The Doggie Bag is at 1745 East Edgewood Drive, Lakeland.

Pet Pal Animal Shelter is hosting their annual Puppy Love Fundraiser Saturday evening with an exciting venue change. We’re looking forward to heading out to the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront, 333 1st Street South, St. Petersburg. There will be a sit-down dinner, silent and live auction, 50/50 raffles with live music by Screamin Donkey. Volunteers have spent the last couple of weeks prepping and wrapping some wonderful prizes. For ticket information, call 727.328.7738. Or we’ll just see you there between 6:30p and 10p.

To stay pUP-to-Date, it’s a good idea to regularly check The New Barker calendar. Upcoming events include The Derby Jubilee followed by the Baldwin Park Doggie Derby in Orlando to benefit the Sebastian Haul Fund; Groovy’s Natural Pet Wellness Expo in Tampa’s Carrollwood; Pet Food Warehouse’s First Annual Pet Rescue Event, St. Pete. Those events and plenty more are in store for the weekend of May 6, 7 and 8.

If you are a pet business looking for a great way to showcase your product or services, contact We are co-hosting several fun, dog friendly events including the Dog Days of Summer (May 20 in Trinity), Trail of Tails (May 21 in Jacksonville) and the Tampa Yankees Bark at the Ballpark (June 3, Tampa).

If you haven’t already, join us in our daily posts and observations. We’ll see you around Florida and remember to dog responsibly.

The Cultured Dog Has Options.

On Thursday, April 14, American Stage presents the outdoor production of RENT. The evening’s extra special touches include a Pay What You Can admission price, Parkshore Grill Catering and (we think the most important touch) the ability to bring your dogs to enjoy the show.

Each year, American Stage in the Park features an outdoor performance on the waterfront at Demens Landing Park (corner of 1st Avenue South and Bayshore Boulevard SE in downtown St. Petersburg). In 2010, The New Barker hosted HAIR on opening night (unofficially called HAIR of the Dog for the evening’s performance). It was the first time American Stage had opened their production to allow dogs in the audience. So successful was the evening’s attendance, they agreed to do it again for this year’s performance of RENT.

Commenting on last year’s performance, Andy Orrell, Director of Marketing for American Stage said, “Once everyone settled in, the dogs mostly enjoyed the outdoors, taking in the Bay breeze and then cuddling up with their humans.” Orrell added, “When Anna Cooke, editor of The New Barker first proposed the idea to us in 2009 it was as if a collective lightbulb went off in our heads. Of course, what a doggone great idea.”

RENT is the hit rock musical based loosely on Puccini’s La Boheme and is known to have changed the face of theatre forever. The story follows a year in the lives of a community of young artists, all struggling to live and celebrate life in New York’s East Village.

Demens Landing is one of the most beautiful parks in Florida. What better way to catch a performance under the stars than with your dog, lounging by your side? Bring your blankets or low lawn chairs for your comfort. And you may bring a picnic basket, but adding more pleasure to this year’s outdoor production is the addition of Parkshore Grill Catering. They will be cooking up some fabulous food – cheese boxes, salads and sandwiches for sale at the park. A portion of the proceeds will benefit American Stage.

The evening’s performance begins at 8pm. Come out a little earlier to mingle with other dog lovers, some of the performers and to simply enjoy a beautiful venue. There truly is No Day But Today. Share it with your dog.

NCAA Basketball Tournament Has Gone to the Dogs.

Tonight’s NCAA basketball tournament for the national championship is being billed as a dog fight with Butler U as the underdog against UConn, who has 10 straight tournament game wins under their dog collars. But that’s not the whole story.

It’s the University of Connecticut (UConn) Huskies versus the Butler University Bulldogs tonight in the men’s final four basketball tournament. And unless some miracle occurs, like dog bones raining down from the sky, it looks as though only one of the two real dog mascots will be on the sidelines tonight. And The New Barker dog magazine is calling a furry foul on game day.

Blue II, the seven-year-old English Bulldog and mascot for Butler University was granted a waiver by the NCAA that allows him on the court for the game. UConn’s mascot, Jonathan XIII, a white Siberian Husky, apparently has not been granted the same waiver. While Blue II was flying first class to Texas last week, Jonathan XIII had to read about his rival’s travels via the newspapers lining the floor of his kennel.

Maybe Blue II has a better publicist. He is definitely getting major face time on television. On Saturday evening (pre-game against Virginia Commonwealth) after posing with cheerleaders, he sat next to Charles “I am not a role model” BARKley. The jury is still out on who barked louder – BARKley or Blue II.

The dog’s handler, Michael Kaltenmark said that Blue II knows when to put his game face on, and is ferocious on the court, yapping at the opposing team’s players.

UConn has used Jonathan the Husky as a mascot since 1935. The Alpha Phi Omega fraternity has been in charge of the Jonathans since 1970. A spokesperson for Jonathan commented about tonight’s game, “Just wait and see. While the players are dribbling on the court, that stupid Bulldog is going to be dribbling all over the floor. They’re gonna have to put on a couple more of those mop kids just to clean up after him.”

The game tonight for the national championship is a showdown between two of the hottest teams in the country. It’s being billed as a dog fight with Butler as the underdog against UConn, who has 10 straight tournament game wins under their dog collars.

Two questions remain to be answered: How much camera time will Blue II receive tonight during the game? And will APO fraternity figure out a way to sneak Jonathan XIII onto the court? We double dog dare you.