By CHRIS JACKETT
Sunday Times Newspapers
RIVERVIEW – Young Patriots Park will go to the dogs Saturday when P.A.W.S. of Michigan hosts its third annual P.A.W.S. in the Park event.
More than 500 animal owners, many with their pets, are expected to descend on the park between 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. for a day of fun, amusing contests and education.
“It’s just a great day to celebrate being a pet parent and owning a pet,” said Mary Gasiewski, volunteer coordinator for P.A.W.S. “This event is going to be extremely enjoyable for pets and their owners alike.”
A Riverview-based organization, P.A.W.S. will be joined by other pet groups for the first time in the event’s three-year history. More than 40 adoptable pets from the Wyandotte Animal Pound, Wyandotte-based Shelter to Home, and Woodhaven-based Basil’s Buddies Pet Food Pantry, which just opened Wednesday, will be on site.
“It’s gone really, really well. Two years ago, it rained like crazy and didn’t stop and we still had people come out,” said Kris Jordan, president of P.A.W.S. “We’re very excited about it. The big key is the weather.”
A wide range of activities awaits pet patrons planning to attend. Registration for the ceremonial 1/3-mile lap around the park’s pond begins at 9:30 a.m., although those interested can sign up in advance at www.pawsofmichigan.com through Wednesday.
Those registering Thursday or later will be charged $30 instead of $20. The fee includes a T-shirt and participation in the walk. On-site registration is $20, but does not include a T-shirt. Fees are increased $5 per additional pet and $10 for an additional T-shirt.
The walk and other events begin at 11 a.m. There will be a kids area with clowns and a coloring contest, as well as a disc jockey, raffle and silent auction for everyone.
P.A.W.S. merchandise will be available and metal identification tags and microchipping also will be available. The $25 microchipping cost includes registration, which often is added on to the $40 to $60 microchipping costs charged by veterinary clinics, Jordan said.
“People believe their animals will never get out of their houses, but the shelters are full of pets who get away. Collars and tags can fall off,” Jordan said, explaining that the small chip is placed between the animals’ should blades. “It’s no worse than getting a vaccine.”
Additionally, a free “Ask the Vet” booth will be set up for patrons concerned with specific pet health issues, and Lorrie the Pet Psychic and Paws in the Garden professional pet photography also will be at the event.
Stone Pizza of Riverview, Jerry’s Food Market of Wyandotte and Michigan Kettle Corn will provide food throughout the day. The Riverview Fire Department is hosting a chili cookoff at the adjacent station during the P.A.W.S. event.
Among the scheduled contests will be musical sit (similar to musical chairs, but for dogs), a one-minute brushing contest to collect the most hair, and a peanut butter-licking contest for dogs in which the spoon is held in the mouth of their owner.
“Those are just a lot of fun. People are really crazy with them and get their animals all dressed up,” Jordan said.
Awards will also be given out for best wag, handshake, kisser, ears, bark, dressed, trick and owner/doggie dance, among others.
“My favorite is ‘animal who looks most like their owner.’ It’s kind of funny,” Gasiewski said.
For a slightly more intense contest, there will be a Fuzzy Lightning Flyball performance, followed by an opportunity for children to race the dogs down the track.
“Flyball is a sport, I guess, that people do with their dogs. Two dogs compete against each other in two aisles,” Jordan said.
In flyball, the competing dogs run down an aisle, hit a lever so that a tennis ball shoots up into the air, catch the ball and bring it back to their owner.
Other than a fun day with pets, one of the goals for P.A.W.S. in the Park is to raise funds to build a low-cost spay/neuter clinic for Downriver cats and dogs.
P.A.W.S. is competing for a $50,000 prize in the monthly Pepsi Refresh challenge. If the organization finishes in the top 10 at the end of September, it will receive the funds needed to open the new clinic. The group has gotten close a few times throughout the past few months, but has high hopes for September, as it was in second place as of Thursday.
Visit www.pawsofmichigan.com for details on how to vote for P.A.W.S. of Michigan in the Pepsi Refresh challenge and help the organization win the money needed to create a new spay/neuter clinic.
(Contact Chris Jackett at [email protected])