Sunday morning, City Park went to the dogs — and their people, too.
The 31st “Dog Day Afternoon” event benefitting the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals drew an estimated 2,000 people — and almost half as many animals — to the area near the “Big Lake” for a warm, sunny day of feasting, frolicking and, perhaps most importantly, fundraising.
“New Orleans is a dog town; it’s dog crazy, really,” Dean Howard, development director for the LASPCA, said.
The day’s activities included a bevy of options for both pets and their owners. Dogs could try their paws at an agility course, listen in on demonstrations of activities such as doggie yoga, or even participate in a “silly pet tricks” contest.
Human companions had the chance to enjoy music by tribute band Burger n Fries and appearances by guest emcees Melanie Hebert, of television station WWL, and Damon Singleton, of WDSU, as well as shopping, face-painting and a food court.
Pets and their people even had a chance to share the stage with events such as a look-alike contest and a treat-eating contest (human vs. dog).
The day’s main event, however, was the “Gatsby Strut” for dogs and owners. More than 60 teams registered and raised approximately $62,000 before the event even took place.
“The one who raises the most funds for the walk is actually awarded chair dog position,” Howard noted, taking pride to point out Mini Levy, official chair dog for 2013; Penelope Howard Brown, vice chair dog; Dante Davey, deputy chair dog; and Luigi, rescue chair dog representing the Sula Foundation.
“$75,000 is our goal, and it all goes to operating expenses for the Louisiana SPCA,” Howard said.
Of the event, he said, “We are the original dog walk-a-thon in Louisiana.
“Honestly it’s the best chance for people to come out and really honor their pets and that great bond that they have and that’s why I think so many people have raised funds for the walk.”
A number of other organizations looking to bring light to animal welfare issues were also in attendance as were more than a few pups wearing “adopt me” scarves and vests.
Connie Back, founder and director of Louisiana Boxer Rescue, shepherded one such group.
Back said her group attended to support the LASPCA, but also to gain exposure to help the dogs in her organization.
“The thing that I think about most, that drives me, is it’s our responsibility,” Back said of her passion.
“(The dogs) don’t have a choice; I have a choice. And my choice is to rescue them and find them a good home,” she said.
Deedra Wing, founder of NO Fleas Market, made a similar observation, saying, “They can’t do it on their own, they need us.”
Kim Dudek, owner of Belladonna and Belladoggie salons and founder of Dag’s House, an organization dedicated to helping special needs dogs, summed up what may have been the theme of the day — “What you do is you try to provide the best quality of life for the dog.”
The truth about cats and dogs is they are just two of a variety of animal species adopted out by the LASPCA. Ferrets, birds, horses, and even lizards are on the list of creatures helped into new homes by the organization. Curious, would-be pet parents should visit http://www.la-spca.org or call (504) 368-5191 for information.