More than 200 canines and their owners entered to win one of eight categories ranging from cutest puppy to best trick to most creative costume.
One of the more favored downtown events of the year, the Pooch Parade elicited pet owners to put on their thinking caps and let their imaginations run wild. That creativity showed Aug. 5 when hundreds flocked downtown.
The event is put on as a fundraiser for the Tri-Valley Guide Dog Puppy Raisers, a local club of volunteers who raise labrador and golden retrievers from as young as eight weeks old for up to 18 months before they are paired with someone who is visually impaired.
This year, there were 202 entrants, compared to 174 last year and the good turnout is attributable to word of mouth, according to Ellen Aguirre, who heads up the organization and coordinates the Pooch Parade.
"With the Human and Pooch category, those numbers were way up," she said. "A lot more people were getting into it. It makes it a lot more fun because I know that's what the people who are watching enjoy seeing."
This year, $2,700 was raised through registration fees to help puppy raisers pay for crates, pens, food, outings and socialization events, Aguirre said. Guide Dogs for the Blind, which is the organization the Tri-Valley Guide Dog Puppy Raiser club supports, supplies leashes, puppy identification jackets, collars and other supplies such as flea and tick medication. Guide Dogs for the Blind also provides a $250 veterinary care reimbursement.
Currently, there are 15 puppies in training. Aguirre said volunteers are both newcomers and some who have participated before. They meet once a month for training and have quarterly outings.
"The club has been in existence for five years," Aguirre said. "To do this, you need patience, commitment because it's a year and a half, and someone who is really willing to make a difference and to give back. The No. 1 question we get as puppy raisers is 'how can you give the dog away?' and it really is about setting your own feelings aside and making a difference in someone else's life who is less fortunate than you. That's really the healthy mindset."
Because the key to puppy raising is socialization to the outside world, it's not uncommon to see raisers with their dogs at the library, the bank, the movies, work or at school, Aguirre said. Sixty to 65 percent of dogs who go through the program become guide dogs. Puppies that don't, known as a "career change" dog, can stay with the puppy raiser as a pet or Guide Dogs for the Blind can place it with one in a long list of applicants willing to adopt them into their home.
For information about the Tri-Valley Guide Dog Puppy Raisers, visit www.trivalleyguidedogs.org. n
Pooch Parade winners
Most Creative Costume
1. Toots, Sara Thrailkille
2. Woody, Marta Skoog
3. Asha, Barbara Erwin
Cute Enough As Is (under 20 pounds)
1. Sven, Conner L'Hommedien
2. Happy, Jake White
3. Dave, Margie Magdalena
Best Team (human and pooch)
1. Maggie May, Dorinna Flanders
2. Bungalow, David Wall
3. Buck, Cortney Memgun
1. Wicket, Hadley & Mike Copeland from Elgin, Ill.
Best Team (pooch and pooch)
1. Odie and Indie, Kerry MacDonald and Holly Michael
2. Lacey and Dexter, Heather Higgins, Jill Krovitz and Hank Dedrick
3. Tabitha and Polly, Sarah Traube
Cute Enough As Is (over 30 pounds)
1. Conner, Mercedes Phillips (blind dog)
2. Bella, Susan and Morena
3. Pilot, Larry Valenzin
Puppy Fun (pooches 2 years and younger)
1. Roxi, Cassidy Barry
2. Cabo, Jennifer Eggert
3. Lilo, Doug and Marlayna Rogers
1. Baily, Pete May
2. Miss Toddie, Nicole Kluger
3. Emmy, Karol Mancini
1. Benji, Hannah and Sophia Wrenn (18 years old)
Best Trick Pooch
1. Leia, Marshall and Clare Alexander
2. Bogie, Diana Kimbrough
3. Asha, Barbara Erwin