She was decked out in a yellow-and-black tutu for a Sunday costume contest, and simply loved the attention she received for her winning “bumblebee magnet” costume.
Later, Piper Renee switched out her tutu for a fashionable bandana and joined a race around Zinn Park. Later, she was scheduled to perform for the judges, showing them her conga and saying her prayers, in addition to the more traditional sitting, rolling over and playing dead, said her owner, Meg Ridgway.
The 3-year-old Australian Shepherd-sheltie-golden retriever mix did all this and more at this year’s Pet Fest, hosted Sunday in Zinn Park by Animal Medical Center.
“It’s just fun,” Ridgway said. “It’s something me and my dog can bond with.”
The event, now in its seventh year, benefits 11 local animal shelters and rescue groups.
“It’s one way to say thank you to the community and all the animal lovers and owners in our area,” said Brooke Nelson, marketing director at Animal Medical Center. This year, the Piper’s Playhouse and the city of Anniston signed on as sponsors of the event as well.
After Saturday’s rainy weather pushed the event back a day, the majority of the event’s 50 scheduled vendors were able to come out for Sunday’s perfect festival weather.
Vendors offered event-goers everything from leather goods to pet grooming, from dog-shaped wooden puzzles to decorative prints with such slogans as “I like big mutts and I cannot lie.”
Attendance didn’t suffer for the rain delay. Nelson said there were more dogs at Sunday’s PetFest than she’d seen yet. In fact, this year’s event went so well that Nelson and other organizers may consider making PetFest a Sunday event moving forward.
At least 45 dogs led their owners on Wag’s Walk, a new one-mile walk around a four-block section of the city’s downtown.
“That is something we added just as a way to emphasize how important it is to exercise with your pet,” Nelson said of the new addition to PetFest.
Organizers’ goal for the event was to emphasize the importance of healthy owners and healthy pets: “The awareness that the exact same problems humans have — obesity, not getting enough exercise — causes the same things in pets,” Nelson said.
Joe Hays and his four-month old dog, Grimm, came in second on the walk. The Oxford resident, who was new to PetFest, said he really liked the overall experience of the event. Without a local dog park, the event served as a good opportunity for owners to get their canine companions out and about.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to bring their pets to socialize,” Nelson said, who noted how well-behaved the animals in the park were on Sunday.
Nelson said that the owners who bring their pets to the park each year are great about minding the rules, keeping them on leashes at all times.
Lu Mosley manned a booth for Semper Fi Rescue Sunday. She said events such PetFest give organization’s such as Semper Fi, where she serves as a foster mom for rescued pets, an opportunity to spread the word to the community.
“It’s more about education than anything — letting people know about rescues, overcrowding in shelters, the importance of spaying and neutering,” she said.
Next door, Margaret Hatley of Saving Animals Volunteer Effort, known as SAVE, told passersby about the low-cost spay and neuter services her organization provides.
“Most people want to have their pets fixed because it’s easier, it’s better for their health … but they can’t afford it,” she said. “That’s where we come in.”
The event also included a demonstration by Woof! Sports’ Frisbee dogs, Creepy Critters with Dan Spaulding from Anniston Museum of Natural History, the Hiss and Slither program with Renee Morrison from the JSU Little River Canyon Field School, and a blessing of the animals by the Rev. Laura Hutchinson of First Christian Church.
Staff writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.