By Jill Keppeler firstname.lastname@example.org
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — As it begins its third incarnation, Dog Days of Kenmore will welcome many vendors, additional rescue groups, new events — and a certain four-footed Western New York celebrity.
When the new dog parade at the event kicks off at 3 p.m. Sunday, it will be led by Phoenix, the burned Jack Russell pup whose story touched people through the area and the world, said Jennifer Berryman, Dog Days coordinator. Phoenix will also greet well-wishers for part of the afternoon at the Kenmore Village Improvement Society’s tent at the event.
“It’s just an overwhelming response from the community,” Berryman said. “Everyone’s just so happy for this little guy. He’s an ambassador and he’s like a local celebrity.”
Phoenix’s visit is just one more new angle to the third annual Dog Days, which will take place from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday at Mang Park in Kenmore. For the first time, the event also has a naming sponsor — Northtown Subaru — and will add about 15 to 20 new vendors and rescue groups.
Berryman said she reached out to groups from throughout the area and into Rochester and Canada for the event.
“I think our reputation has really gotten out there, which is good,” she said, adding that the event’s Facebook page now has more than 600 “likes” gained since last year. “It’s the biggest area event in summer ... that’s dog-related.
“All in all it’s been overwhelming and just terrific. It’s a nice way to learn about different groups and spoil your four-footed friend in the process.”
Vendors range from those selling an array of gourmet goodies for canines to pet photography, pet activities, Bark and Ride Pet Taxi and even Pet Heaven Funeral Home. There will be a microchip and nail clip clinic, a doctor Q&A and behavior consultant by Brighton-Eggert Animal Clinic, demonstrations of dog life-saving equipment by the Kenmore Fire Department and a K-9 dog demonstration by the Town of Tonawanda Police Department. Dog blessings will be provided throughout the day by the Rev. Ben Eder and the Rev. Peter LeValley. Live music will be provided by Creek Bend Bluegrass Band and food vendors will include Lloyd Taco Truck and the Amy’s Place food truck.
At 12:30, 1:30 and 3:30 p.m., agility demos will be presented by Canine Sports Complex. At 2:15 p.m., there will be contests including a dog-owner look-a-like competition, coolest trick and best dog costume. The contest will be judged by state Sen. Mark Grisanti (who sponsored Phoenix’s Law against animal cruelty in the state Senate) and others, Berryman said.
In the past, money raised through small fees for contest entry were donated to one rescue organization chosen that day, KVIS President Melissa Foster said. This year, in addition, five $100 gifts will be donated to five different rescues chosen at random at the event.
“They need it so much,” Foster said of the rescue groups. “We really wanted to say to them, ‘We appreciate what you’re doing.’ It’s a very moving circle of people, and it just touches your heart strings. They give a lot of time and energy to this.
“We encourage people to come out and learn about the rescues ... and investigate the possibility for bringing a wonderful dog friend into their families.”
Groups include the humane societies from Chautauqua, Erie and Niagara counties and about 20 rescue and help organizations. Berryman, herself involved with GRROWLS, a golden retriever rescue group, said that the event is an opportunity to learn a lot about the different groups that are out there.
“Some of these groups are breed-specific and some are not,” she said. “It helps tremendously. It’s an opportunity to learn abut the group, find out how you go about adopting a dog, learn what procedure is.”
Skye Lipton of Kenmore, president and founder of Silver Lining for Pit Bulls, has attended the past events for her rescue organization and is also serving on the Dog Days planning committee this year. The event has been so well-run that it gets groups’ names out in the community in a very positive way, she said.
“Every rescue has different dogs and different specialties,” she said. “We’re Silver Lining for Pit Bulls, but we are all breeds. A lot of people don’t really realize that, but then they see us at a community event with maybe a smaller dog.”
One of the groups isn’t precisely a rescue organization, although its goal is ultimately to save pets’ lives. Hope Before Heaven was started in January by Linda and Gary Hepler in honor of their sheltie, Aasha, who died after the Heplers rushed her to an emergency animal hospital for treatment when she suddenly became ill.
Aasha’s death was traumatic, but what they witnessed while waiting for her medical tests broke their hearts even further, Linda Hepler said.
“We were in the waiting room and a couple people came in,” she said. “They had to have their animals euthanized because they didn’t even have money for their surgery ... not even for a down payment.
“It just made me so mad ... and I said, ‘I’m going to do something about that.’ “
Hope Before Heaven aims to pay for emergency medical care for companion animals throughout the Western New York area, in cases where the animal would have to be euthanized if the owner couldn’t afford care. So far, the all-volunteer non-profit group has helped save a cat by funding a tooth extraction, and Hepler has more plans: She is seeking a corporate sponsor and visiting about 40 different events this summer to get the word out.
It’s all in the memory of Aasha ... whose name meant “hope.”
“We’re trying to keep them in the their homes, with the owners that love them,” Hepler said. “We will help anyone that we can help.”IF YOU GO • WHAT: Dog Days of Kenmore • WHEN: Noon to 4 p.m. Sunday • WHERE: Mang Park, Mang and Elmwood avenues, Kenmore. • FOR MORE INFORMATION: Visit www.dogdayswny.com.