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Pet owners, animals converge Downtown for Pet Expo

| Thursday, Oct. 14, 2004

A national television celebrity will travel from his Los Angeles-area estate to Pittsburgh this weekend to promote the new-and-improved version of his favorite delicacy: 9Lives.

Morris the Cat, the finicky orange tabby who has represented 9Lives cat food for 36 years, will have plenty of furry company during his tour stop here. The famous feline headlines the inaugural Pittsburgh Pet Expo, a two-day extravaganza featuring critters from cats and dogs to birds, reptiles and livestock, as well as live entertainment, a parade, a petting zoo and adoptions.

You can bring your pet as long as it is well-tempered, current on vaccinations and on a leash, organizers say. Pets can come dressed in costumes and compete in a Halloween contest.

"It will be interesting to find out the response of people bringing their pets," says Bernie Caplan, co-coordinator of Pittsburgh Pet Expo. He also is director of the resource marketing department for Clear Channel Communications, which partnered with Giant Eagle to sponsor the event.

Organizers are hoping for at least 5,000 attendees at the Downtown David L. Lawrence Convention Center. They would like to make it an annual event, Caplan says.

"We thought this was a great way and a great place for the entire family to go for a day," he says.

Guests can visit, pet and take photographs with Morris, who will serve as Grand Marshal of the kickoff Pet Parade Saturday morning. Well-trained by his handler and companion, Rose Ordile, Morris gets excited by the massive attention rather than spooked like many felines, says Melissa Murphy, director of corporate communications for Del Monte.

"He has just a wonderful temperament; he's very sweet," Murphy says of the 10-pound shelter cat, who is about 6 years old and the fifth Morris since the original kitty. Del Monte recently bought the 9Lives brand and other product lines from Pittsburgh-based Heinz.

Pittsburgh Pet Expo includes more than 45 vendors promoting, teaching about and peddling anything related to pets -- even the pets themselves, offered for adoption by area animal shelters. One shelter, Animal Rescue League of Western Pennsylvania, plans to bring at least one litter of kittens, and at least one cat and dog to the expo, officials say.

"I think it's wonderful, especially in a place as large as the convention center," says Shelly Tower, the East Liberty shelter's outreach director. "I think it's going to be really cool to have all these pet lovers in one place."

Commercial vendors include national products and services such as Pup-Peroni, Meow Mix and Petfinder.com, and local businesses such as Bow-Wow Doggie Day Care in the Strip District. Vendors also include local breed advocacy and rescue groups, including the Three Rivers Ferret Council, offering information about the pets.

Live animal entertainment at the expo includes performances by America's Best Frisbee Dogs, who have performed during a few hundred NFL, NBA and college sport half-times, says owner and trainer Bill Camp of Niles, Mich. His costumed dogs, including border collies, will perform acrobatic stunts to music while catching flying discs.

"This is like a ticket to the Barnum & Bailey Circus -- without the elephants," Camp says.

Special events

  • The Pittsburgh Pet Expo kicks off at 10 a.m. Saturday morning with the Pet Parade, in which participants can walk around Downtown with their leashed pets. Those who march in the parade receive free admission. Watering and rest areas will be available for those who bring pets.

  • The Pet Costume Contest begins at 4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Each day, the animal titled "Best-Dressed Pet" will receive a $100 grand prize.

  • America's Best Frisbee Dogs will perform 30-minute shows at 11:15 a.m., 1:15 and 5 p.m. Saturday; and 11:15 a.m., 2 and 5 p.m. Sunday.

  • The Celebrity Pet Area features local celebrities and their pets, and guests can pose for pictures with them.

  • Ken Meltzer of WQED will appear with dog Max from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday; Anna Singer of WQED will appear with cockatoo Sammy from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday; Mr. McFeely of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" will appear with dog Gus from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday; South Side Roosevelt, the Punk-Rock Dog, will appear from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Additional Information:

    Details

    Pittsburgh Pet Expo

    When: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. Pet Parade begins at 10 a.m. Saturday.

    Admission: $8 per day; free for age 12 and younger.

    Where: David L. Lawrence Convention Center, 1000 Fort Duquesne Blvd., Downtown.

    Details: (412) 919-8502 or www.PittsburghPetExpo.com .

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