Woofstock in the NewsJune 07, 2009
The Bristol Herald Courier published the following article about Woofstock 2009. Thanks, BHC! We appreciate your support.
Woofstock: Professional and Family Pooches Show Off Skills
BY CLAIRE GALOFARO
BRISTOL HERALD COURIER
She's tall, dark and handsome; a celebrity among her peers. And she can catch six Frisbees in her mouth in rapid succession.
Hammer is a 3-year-old Dutch Shepherd, headlining with the world-renowned Purina Incredible Dog Team at Woofstock in Bristol, Va., on Saturday. The Margaret B. Mitchell Spay/Neuter Clinic hosted the inaugural event to support its mission of providing reduced-cost surgeries for pets in Southwestern Virginia and Sullivan County, Tenn. Laura Moretz of Hilton Head, S.C., trains Hammer and her five cohorts. They jump into the air, catch, spin in circles, dive and run – always with their eyes focused intently on the Frisbee. The motley crew has traveled the country, from Idaho to Texas to Connecticut, to spread the word that all dogs are awesome dogs.
"Every dog has the potential to be incredible," Moretz said. "You just have to find out what yours is good at; they might just be an incredible couch potato."
Saturday's event started at 10 a.m. and by noon more than 1,200 people and 230 pups filled Sugar Hallow Park. Organizers were pleasantly surprised by the turnout, and began making hushed plans for overflow parking next year. All proceeds went directly to the Margaret D. Mitchell clinic's goal of curbing the area's dog and cat over-population problem. In four years, the clinic has performed 31,000 surgeries, said activist Teresa Dockery, who serves as the clinic's chief operating officer. The organization even has a van to pick up pets from outlying counties and drive them to the clinic for the inpatient, overnight procedure.
Dockery said the euthanasia rate in the Bristol area is considerably higher than the national average. In the northern counties of Southwest Virginia, some 95 percent of shelter animals are put down, she said. Nationally, the Humane Society of the United States estimates that six to eight million dogs and cats enter shelters each year, and three to four million of those are euthanized.
The festival organizers hope that Saturday's event will promote responsible pet ownership, especially spay and neuter surgeries, by highlighting the joy healthy animals can bring to their owners.
"We hope that people have fun with their dogs, and appreciate the opportunity to bring them out," Dockery said. "It's such a great way to showcase animals, and encourage people to please, go out to the shelters."
Pet-owners packed the bleachers, many of them accompanied by dogs, from horse-sized English Mastiffs to scruffy, 4-week-old miniature pinchers. The proudest parents showed off during tail wagging and trick contests.
"Dogs deserve social events like this," said Shana Burroughs who runs a "barkery," a doggie-treat bakery called BB's in downtown Bristol, Va. She manned one of the many vendor booths in the park selling everything a dog could want.
Kevin Dye, the director of Bristol Virginia's parks and recreation department, brought Maggie, his 10-month-old beagle-basset mix rescued from a local shelter.
"She's home alone most of the time," he said, "so she's a bit skittish. It's good to get her around other dogs and people."
Zappo the Clown twisted brown and gray balloon dogs and kids painted handprints on the side of a pony. Even the police and fire departments were out with dog
demonstrations, running through the ways the animals help those agencies.
Gracie, a bashful white fur-ball in a pink psychedelic dress, along with her devoted – and similarly attired – family, won the blue ribbon for costume. Her adoring owners, 8-year-old Shelby Gamble, and parents Sheila and Clay Gamble, all from Abingdon, took the title "Woofstock" quite literally. Shelby and Sheila tottered the field in white mini-skirts and go-go boots, while Clay wore a long, brown wig and bellbottoms.
Everybody at the event loved their dogs, and that was exactly the point.
"There are too many dogs in rescue shelters, there are too many unwanted pets," said Moretz with Razor, a 6-year-old border collie at her feet. "That's because there are too many irresponsible pet owners. Sometimes you have to ask for help."
For more information on adoptions, and spay and neutering options, visit mbmspayneuterclinic.org or a local animal shelter.