By James Lomuscio
One after the other, dogs of different sizes, breeds and barks tried their best at the obstacle course at Winslow Park today.
A dog jumps a hurdle on the obstacle course today at the Westport Dog Festival. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Gordon Joseloff for WestportNow.com
Egged on by a fast moving, fuzzy lure attached to a wire on pulleys, each dog had to jump hurdles, climb inclines and race through tubes to catch the faux rodent.
“He did one similar to this four years ago in Norwalk,” said Monica Ogrodowski, a Norwalk resident who waited for her chocolate lab-collie Chip to participate. “I think this is awesome.”
Located in a designated Doggie Fun Zone, the obstacle course, sponsored by Garavel Auto Group, was more than just for fun. The winning dog would receive a year’s supply of dog food.
It was just one of myriad activities at today’s second annual Dog Festival that drew more than 2,000 persons and more than 600 dogs to Winslow Park, according to Matthew Mandell, executive director of the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce (WWCC).
The WWCC coordinated the event with TAILS, a local organization that promotes spay-neutering. The presenter and lead sponsor of the day’s events was Choice Pet.
The park was packed. The dogs, which included everything from lap dogs to rescue dogs, from guide dogs to hunting dogs, were well behaved and leashed except for certain activities.
State Rep. Jonathan Steinberg (2nd l) was judge for best singer/barker and posed with the winners. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Gordon Joseloff for WestportNow.com
High attendance was obvious with the parking lots filled at People’s United Bank, at the Compo Shopping Center, the Westport Playhouse, and the Saugatuck Congregational Church, as well as nearly a half-mile of cars parked on the west side of Compo Road North.
“This is a wonderful event that brings all of Westport together because we all love our dogs,” said state Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, who was the judge for the best singer/barker contest.
And it wasn’t just Westport dog lovers who came in droves.
According to Mandell, attendees included dogs and their owners from throughout Fairfield and New Haven Counties, as well as Westchester and Rockland Counties in New York. After a Saturday of heavy rain, today’s crisp, sometimes chilly weather with some cloud coverage appeared to beckon canine lovers outdoors.
“It’s a phenomenal day, beautiful weather, perfect dog weather,” said Paul Lebowitz, a WWCC member who was working the entrance booth where attendees not only paid the $10 entrance fee but signed hold harmless release forms that required owners to keep their pets leashed.
Candance Banks of Westport gets kisses from Lily, 6, during the best kisser contest. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Gordon Joseloff for WestportNow.com
Westport’s support for a dogs was well represented not only by the fact that the event was held in the town’s dog park, but by local groups including Westport Animal Shelter Advocates (WASA), Save Our Strays, Westport Animal Control, as well as the Westport Police Department’s K-9s Koda and Atlas.
At the afternoon K-9 demonstration involving dogs from Westport and nearby departments, Officer James Loomer introduced Westport’s newest K-9, Ambo, a 3-year-old yellow lab who is the department’s first explosives detection dog.
Among the more than 50 pet-related vendors and rescue-adoption opportunities was Townhouse for Dogs and Cats located at 1040 Post Road East and its affiliate Jet-A-Pet.
“It’s our sister company,” said Colleen Maxham about Jet-A-Pet, which separately flies the pets of relocating owners, getting involved from start to finish with setting up flights, organizing quarantines upon arrival, even finding pet care in the new location, be it a city or another continent.
As he looked around the crowded expanse filled with dogs and their owners in tow, Mandell summed up his feelings about that which, now in its second year, seemed poised to become an annual event.
“It’s a great day to be a dog in Westport,” he said.