At 7 p.m., the throng parted and turned its attention to the hundreds of dogs strutting their stuff in the 16th annual Pooch Parade. Some pranced regally beside their owners while others strained at their leashes, leaning toward the outstretched hands of observers. Many were in vibrant costumes, but others wore nothing, having entered the "Cute Enough As Is" category.
All had one thing in common: They and their owners were raising money for the nonprofit Tri-Valley Guide Dog Puppy Raisers, a group that rears canines for Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael.
"The importance of the event is to raise awareness of what guide dogs do and what they are and to put on an event for the dog owners in the community," said Club Leader Ellen Aguirre. "There's always a need for guide dogs. There will always be a visually impaired community."
This year the parade raised approximately $3,700 for the charity, but raising awareness in the community was more important than the money, said Aguirre.
The Aug. 7 event began with registration and judging at 5:30 p.m. at Lions Wayside Park on First Street. Dog-owner duos paid a fee of $10 to participate, and all proceeds benefited the Guide Dog Puppy Raisers. Dogs performed tricks at 6:30 p.m., and the parade began 30 minutes later. After touring Main Street, dogs and owners gathered back at the park at 7:45 p.m. to hear winners from the seven categories announced.
Afterward some of the participants drifted back toward the festivities on Main Street. Others headed for home, satisfied with the Dog Days of Summer and pleased to have contributed to a worthy cause.
And the winners are...
1. Jojo (Cindy Juarez)
2. Rex (Linda Johnson)
3. Jack (Heather Roberson)
Senior Pooches (8 years and older)
1. Willie, 18 (Margo Olsen)
2. Lucy, 15 (Cherie Dyle)
3. Savannah, 8 (Kim Taylor)
Willie, 18 (Margo Olsen)
Justice (Cassie Pickett) from Rancho Mirage
Cute Enough As Is (under 30 lbs.)
1. Kiki (Stacey Scott)
2. Bailey (Kim Larkworthy)
3. Jack (Heather and Jim Roberson)
Cute Enough As Is (over 30 lbs.)
1. Myrna (Ami Peterson)
2. Murphy (Pam O'Connell)
3. Kodiak (Pete May)
Most Creative Costume (pooches only)
1. Ava (Darlene Inzerilla)
2. Poe (Kathy Kellman)
3. Luna (Maria Deleo and Alyssa Camacho); Daphne (Savina and Liana Deleo)
Best Team Outfit (human and pooch)
1. Ginger (Annika Jernstedt)
2. Gretzky (Monica Chinn)
3. Newby (Katherine Mahon)
Best Trick (pooches of all ages)
1. Bella (Lara Garza) -- beg, walk, pick-pocket, jump through arms
2. Fiona (Kathy Kellman) -- sit up, beg, speak, roll over, put toys in bucket, get kleenex, play piano
3. Buffy (Diana Kimbrough) -- sit pretty, rollover, spin, jump
Love puppies? Volunteer
The Tri-Valley Guide Dog Puppy Raisers group is looking for volunteers. Those interested can become a puppy raiser, which entails fostering an 8-week-old puppy until it is 15 to 16 months old; teaching it basic obedience and manners; housebreaking it; and socializing it with the outside world. Others, who might not be able to make such a large commitment, can become puppy sitters or club volunteers. Visit www.trivalleyguidedogs.org.