Contests, costumes, food, free stuff at dog walk
by BETH ALTENA
“It’s already a success. I just hope the dogs show up,” said organizer Tom VanderSloot, who is hoping for a big bow wow turnout this Saturday, Oct. 29 to the first Happy Hounds Dog Walk at the Rockford Community Cabin, 220 N. Monroe Street in downtown Rockford.
The event will take place starting at 9 a.m. for on-site registration, the dog walk starts at 10 a.m., and booths and demonstrations will take place until 1 p.m. Given the day, dogs and owners are welcome to dress up and perhaps be chosen as winners in a costume contest. Proceeds of the walk are going to a proposed dog park planned across the Rogue River from Richardson-Sowerby Park south of Ten Mile Road.
Visitors don’t even have to have a dog to participate, eat and be entertained and educated. In addition to a Happy Hounds stroll through downtown Rockford, the dog festival will include pet-related vendors with information, demonstrations, giveaways and contests. Florentine Pizzeria Ristorante will offer pasta and breadsticks and is donating proceeds to the Happy Hounds nonprofit group. There will be refreshments for a nominal fee, but the stars of the day will be the dogs.
West Michigan Therapy Dogs will have a tent and some lovely therapy dogs as they raise awareness to the good work they do with those who need a boost from a furry friend. Right next to them will be Paws With a Cause demonstrating what service dogs do to help those with physical challenges.
The Humane Society opted out of bringing real dogs up for adoption to the event, but will have photos and video of animals waiting for a home. An organization called Fur to Feathers will have on-site canines that need a human to adopt them.
The National Animal Assist Crisis Response will explain the program it offers, training therapy dogs and their owners to respond to devastating disasters—9/11, the hurricane Katrina, and other catastrophes—with assistance at the sites of disasters.
Pawsitive Impact for Pets is a local nonprofit with the task of helping pet owners keep their pets when they are struggling with financial challenges, either through losing a job or some other circumstance.
“We have all gamuts covered,” said Jennifer Etchinson, another organizer. “We have dogs who help people, people who help dogs, dogs that need a home, and people who want to help others keep their dog in their home.”
The walk will be from the Community Cabin grounds to the White Pine Trail, across the dam, along a nature trail and will wind back through the business district. A Yorkie shortcut is available for dogs that might not be up to a longer walk. Any dogs or owners are welcome to head back to the Community Cabin at any time to eat or see demonstrations.
The Happy Hounds walk is the first fundraiser for the Rockford Dog Park, which has been embraced by business owners, dog lovers and even one supporter, Richard Moll, former Mayor of Rockford and current Rockford City Council member, who doesn’t even have a dog. The organizers expect they need to raise $15,000 with a minimum goal of $12,000 to build the park. The City has pledged the property to the park if funds can be raised.
Huyer Luv Kennels and Grooming, Rockford Animal Hospital, and Chow Hound have each pledged $3,500 toward the park. Chase’s Corner Kennel donated a generous $500 and Invisible Fence and Well Pet each pledged $250. Hopefully walkers and Happy Hounds will add to the total and make the park a reality.
“If you want a dog park in Rockford, sign your dogs up for this walk,” said VanderSloot.
The cost of the walk is just $10 and includes a “wag bag” of goodies and a doggie bandana, or for just $15 more receive a Happy Hounds t-shirt as well. To find out more or to pre-register, visit rpmoll.com/happyhounds.