Here in the Florida Keys, I am always impressed by the amount of fundraising that takes place just about every weekend; well-attended events that generously benefit both humans and animals.
When I learned about one such event called Woofstock you know I had to go. By the time we got to Woofstock, my husband was not in such a great mood. I should have known that the 50 minute ride up to Islamorada on a beautiful sunny Saturday would be like taking a trip to the Jersey shore on the Garden State Parkway on a weekend in July. Once we got there, however, Rich mellowed amid hundreds of happy pups, and a beer tent.
The local paper described “Woofstock” as a “far out festival” for dogs. The event, sponsored by MarrVelous Pet Rescues (MPR) in the Upper Keys promised a day filled with music, food, wine, and dogs. What could be better?
Organizers, Joy Martin, and Michele Beach, local businesswomen, and animal lovers, felt that there was a need for an organized event to benefit animal welfare in the area. Michele, a realtor, founded MPR after discovering a litter of puppies abandoned in the hot Florida sun. All puppies were eventually placed in good homes, but Michele was inspired to become an advocate for abused and abandoned dogs when a small fund raising event was held to cover a vet’s bill incurred for the care of the pups.
Woofstock lived up to its promise. Oodles of poodles, tons of terriers, Goldens galore, and a multitude of mixed-breeds peacefully mingled with their humans on the grounds of Founder’s Park in beautiful Islamorada. Massive mastifs towered over yipping Yorkies. A man walking a Blood Hound explained his dog, Ruby, was on the scent of her two siblings that were somewhere in the park. Eight musical groups performed on a main stage, while over fifty vendors displayed goods, and services, for both dog and human. There were dog professionals who painted dog portraits, sold pet cemetary plots, offered to pilot your pet to designated destinations, and promoted dog-friendly resorts.
Among the groups with booths at the event were Stand Up for Animals (of the Lower Keys), This is The Dog, the Upper Keys Humane Society, and No Pets Left Behind. Other activities included agility performances, the Blessing of the Pets, a Far Out Talent Contest, grooming demonstrations, Search and Rescue Drills, a Hippie Dog/Owner Costume Contest, and mini-workshops about dog nutrition, breeding, and breed information.
One of the most important aspects of the festival was finding homes for dogs that had none by staging a “Mutt Strut” through the park, a sweet parade of dogs wearing vests that declared “Adopt Me.” While at the event, I personally witnessed two adoptions take place, and Joy Martin told me that a total of twenty adoptions ocurred during the course of the event! Joy says the recent economic downturn in the area has affected the lives of animals stating, “To me personally, helping an owner surrender a dog is so important because these dogs have known care, and love in many cases, and like their human counterparts are really adjusting to a new situation.” Joy further explained that in areas like Miami Dade, overpopulation is a huge problem. Sadly, those dogs surrendered by their owners are often the first to be euthanized, stray dogs, on the other hand, are granted a five day period to be claimed before suffering a similar fate. Due to the increase of foreclosures, many dog owners panic and don’t know what to do. Joy told of a recent MPR rescue of a Shitzu that had been left alone in a vacated home for about three weeks. Fortunately, the dog was rescued in time, but that story could have had a tragic end.
Woofstock was a day filled with peace, and love, and dogs, and I felt a little sad when it was time to go, but seeing the amount of happy people, and dogs still pouring into the park, I was happy to have been a small part of an event that was such a huge success. Joy, Michele, and a dedicated, helpful, and friendly staff of volunteers were a great example of what Will Judy had in mind when he founded National Dog Week over eighty year ago, showing that every week of the year can present an opportunity to carry out his message, that we can never thank dogs enough for all they do for us humans.
Read a little about the history of National Dog Week in the Archive Files of this Blog (January 4th).
Have you, or someone you know, ever observed or participated in an event for National Dog Week held the last full week of September? If so, please feel free to comment, or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am currently collecting stories for my book, and would love to hear about your stories, and events.
Notes on the Blogging life: I would like to thank Sandy over at Rover411.com for her mention of my Blog, and linking her educational, and well-designed website about dogs to my work. I’ve only been at this for about two months, and I am so amazed at how many people have taken the time to read my posts. Blogging is a great way to connect with those in the “dog world” and beyond. I hope to join the ranks of Face Book by month’s end, but for now, I am concentrating on finishing the book, while enjoying the scenery here in the Keys. Here’s hoping it’s the “key” to my success!