Pleasanton Weekly

Cover Story - July 29, 2011

Calling all doggies

Annual Pooch Parade raises funds for guide dog training

by Priyanka Mody

Strutting their fur and fancies along the streets of downtown, doggies from Pleasanton, throughout the Bay Area and as far as Long Beach will be dressed to impress on Aug. 3 at the Tri-Valley Guide Dog Puppy Raisers' 14th annual Pooch Parade.

The event, which begins and ends at Lions Wayside Park, aims to raise money to offset the costs of raising a guide dog and will feature a number of activities such as an obstacle course for the dogs, a march up and down Main Street, and a tricks show. Most owners dress their animals -- and themselves -- in colorful matching or coordinated costumes.

It all ties in with the First Wednesday Street Party on Main Street, which has the August theme, Dog Days of Summer.

Last year the Pooch Parade attracted 228 participants and raised $3,552 through registration fees and sales of tickets for drawings, Puppy Raisers' leader Ellen Aguirre said. However this year, she anticipates close to 250 registrants and hopes to raise even more money; the Pooch Parade is the group's largest fundraiser.

Aguirre has seen the event grow since its inception 14 years ago. While one of the major differences with each passing year is the increasing number of attendees, Aguirre also has noticed that the community has embraced it more.

"Now they're getting in to the costume and it's becoming more fun for everyone -- spectators and participants together," she said.

Aguirre hardly has time to watch the spectacle as she actively takes part in leading the parade, accompanied by a drum corps. Yet midway through, she sometimes pauses and looks out at the congregation of people in the park who have come out to support the organization.

"My favorite part is seeing it packed with people and dogs and everyone having a good time," Aguirre said. "It's one of those situations: You throw a party and you hope everyone comes. And we're right in the prime of the event, and we threw an event, and people came."

Both Aguirre and Publicity Chairwoman Lynn Fitzpatrick said the reason the event has a successful turnout is because it gives dog owners an opportunity to show off their pets. Fitzpatrick also noted that people enjoy meeting others who share the same breed dog and who have similar experiences.

"It's fun watching all of the people having their dogs meet, getting tangled and then unweaving their leashes," she said.

Despite the possibility of complete chaos, "the dogs are surprisingly well behaved," Fitzpatrick said.

Organizers have found that the weather in August can be very hot, so they set up water bowls all over the park. Additionally, this year the event has been pushed back an hour into the evening for dogs who have been uncomfortably warm in years past.

Besides the parade and costume judging, another popular attraction is the tricks show. The participants are split almost 50-50 between oldtimers and newly trained. Last year's first-place winner was Bogie and owner Diana Kimbrough, who said for her, trick training has always been a hobby, and that Bogie used to be a competitive show dog.

They plan to attend again this year, said Kimbrough, but she is unsure whether they will compete.

"Bogie is 15-1/2 years old," she said. "So, if he's feeling up to it."

Nonetheless, she is excited to come and watch the parade and support the organization. Her personal favorite is watching all the creative costumes donned by the dogs and their owners.

The Pooch Parade will accept registration starting at 5:30 p.m. at Lions Wayside Park at the corner of First and Neal streets. Dogs of all sizes above the age of 4 months are welcome. An entry fee of $10 is required per category, and the various prizes include Most Creative Costume, Cute As It Is (no costume), Best Team Outfit, Puppy Fun, Senior Pooch and Best Trick.

The parade will commence at 7 p.m. at the corner of Abbie and Main Street.

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