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$1,300 for a party: Meet the ‘pawrents’ who spare no expense on dog birthdays

SINGAPORE – Siblings Mantou, Cookie and Peanut celebrated their birthday on Saturday afternoon chasing one another around an indoor playground in i12 Katong mall.

Mantou pranced around with a diaper on. Her brothers Cookie and Peanut, when not running about, were relieving themselves at corners of the playground. It was chaos.

The three maltipoos (a maltese-poodle cross) were celebrating their birthday at Mr Woofles, a doggy daycare with a playground for pooches. Their owners, or “pawrents”, had rented the premises for $290 for two hours.

The pups had a two-tiered cake made of watermelon and topped with blueberries. They needed help blowing out the candles, but had no trouble scarfing down the cake.

Dog birthday parties – or “barkday” parties – are becoming increasingly elaborate affairs in Singapore, with pet owners forking out more than $1,000 in some cases to lavish love on their “furkids”.

For the maltipoos, the party came a week before their actual birthday (they turn one on Nov 14), but they did not seem to mind.

Peanut, usually quiet at home, was uncharacteristically boisterous, said his owner Yang Cailing, 41.

“I think he knows that it is his birthday, and I think he recognises his brother and sister,” said Ms Yang, an insurance manager.

In all, six dogs – including two poodles and a bichon frise – and about 20 people were at the barkday celebration.

The party was also the first time that Mantou’s pawrent, Mr Ong Yao Min, met Ms Yang and Ms Charmaine Poh, Cookie’s owner. The trio had earlier discovered that their pups were littermates via a Facebook group for maltipoo owners.

The two women met earlier in 2023 at a pet shop when they were buying their puppies.

Mr Ong, a civil servant, said: “We have been corresponding online, sending each other pictures of our dogs, and I thought their birthday would be the best time to meet up.”

Mantou is his first dog, and he wanted to do “something special and different” on her birthday, said the 36-year-old.

“The memories made are priceless. The party is a way for family and friends to come together; I see Mantou as an extension of the family,” he added.

Ms Samantha Peh, who owns the Mr Woofles doggy daycare, said there is a growing “pet-parent culture” in Singapore, where people increasingly see their dogs as their furkids, and these proud pawrents want the best for their fur babies on their birthdays.

Event spaces like Ms Peh’s have seen bookings go up. She told The Straits Times that the daycare now hosts up to five parties a month, up from one to two when it first started offering the space for rentals in mid-2022. 

At the Wag & Wild dog water park in Jurong – where a 90-minute rental can range from $300 to more than $1,000, depending on the number of dogs – bookings for private parties have been increasing by about 20 per cent annually since the park opened for business in 2020, said owner Alex Choy.

The park currently hosts between four and eight private parties a month.

Beyond parties, pet owners are also shelling out for dog cakes and goodie bags.

Ms Zhuo Jiayi, owner of pet bakery Petissier, said the bakery now receives about 60 orders a week, a 20 per cent increase from 2022. 

The largest order she had this year consisted of a four-inch cake and 21 “pupcakes” (cupcakes for dogs), and cost about $354.

The chiffon cakes are filled with either poached apples or meat (such as chicken or tuna), and are covered with soya frosting.

In this social media age, many owners “like to buy beautiful customised cakes to post on Instagram accounts made for their pets”, said Ms Zhuo.

Orders for Hoy, a shop which sells “pawty packs” filled with dog treats, have also doubled since 2022, said its owner Mel Yip. 

The little goodie bags are priced from $3 a bag. The biggest order she had ever received was for 100 packs.

Owners said spending such money on birthday parties was not extravagant. After all, they had built precious bonds with their pets and it was worth celebrating such milestones.

They told ST it takes great effort to plan these parties. Ms Joey Ang, who held a birthday celebration in February for Tiffi – a two-year-old pomsky (a pomeranian and husky mix) – had to make sure all the invited pups could get along.

“Certain dogs might not get along well with one another, so I had to run through the attendance list with all the guests to prevent fights from breaking out during the party,” said the Singapore Management University undergraduate.

The 20-year-old spent $600 on the party at pet event space BarknBake in Joo Chiat Road, which included a birthday cake, cupcakes and goodie bags for the dogs.

Others such as Ms Chervonne Ang, 33, rented a yacht to celebrate her Shetland sheepdog Junior’s second birthday in October.

Junior loves going to the beach and, that day, he frolicked in the waves at Lazarus Island, she said, adding that Junior’s pup friends and their owners also spent the day swimming and doing stand-up paddleboarding.

The lucky pooch ended the day at a spa and also had a cake shaped like a green Crocs sandal “because he loves to nip at people’s feet”, said Ms Ang, who spent $1,300 in all.

“Junior might not have known it was his birthday, but to me, it was important to celebrate the occasion as he’s not going to live very long as compared with a human,” she added.

“Towards the end of his life, he might not have enough energy to socialise.”

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