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Bark in the Park draws big crowd

By Staff | Jun 5, 2011

An owner and her dog enjoy Saturday’s Bark in the Park event at Jefferson Memorial Park in Charles Town. The event included raffles, canine contests, relay races, demonstrations and vendors. (Journal photo by Juliet Seligman)

CHARLES TOWN – Pet owners paraded their beloved dogs Saturday at the Animal Welfare Society of Jefferson County’s Bark in the Park event.

AWS Vice President Jane Tarner said the annual event is held primarily “for pets and pet owners’ enjoyment.”

However, the event also helps a good cause. Tarner said all proceeds from the day’s event will benefit the Animal Welfare Society’s “no kill” shelter, which was established in 1985 in Ranson. AWS accepts dogs and cats that have been “abandoned, abused or unwanted,” and it was established in 1952.

Annie Roina, who is serving her second term as AWS president, said she is thankful for the overwhelming support from area residents and businesses including Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races, Panera Bread and McKinney’s Auto Repair and Towing, which helped sponsor the park event.

Gold’s Gym in Charles Town, the city of Ranson and Greensburg Bed and Biscuit in Martinsburg also offered support.

“We could not do this without them,” Roina said.

Bark in the Park took place at Jefferson Memorial Park in Charles Town, where local pet supply and crafts vendors set up, and about 200 people strolled around the park grounds enjoying the pleasant day with their beloved dogs.

Many pets participated with their owners in “clicker” demonstrations and competitions including “Best Kisser,” “Best Dressed” and “Best Vocalist.” The event also included raffles, relay races, an interactive pledge walk and a blessing of the animals.

“I love animals,” Tarner said. “They give unconditional love. We’re here to give the dogs and cats that come to us a second chance at a loving home.”

Whitney McDonald, 23, of Harpers Ferry, said she brought her 1-year-old Great Dane, Dzungar, to the event to “socialize.”

McDonald said she takes her dog with her everywhere she goes.

“I am an animal lover,” she said, adding she has three cats, two ferrets and albino African clawed frogs.

“I’ll be back next year for sure,” McDonald said as she readied Dzungar for the “Best Dressed” competition, for which he sported a basketball jersey.

Also present at the event was Clint McNutt, who brought his dog, “Honey,” a Rottweiler breed.

McNutt, who rode around the event in his motorized wheelchair, has diabetes. He said he brings Honey, a certified service dog, with him everywhere including the grocery store because she carries emergency medications in her backpack.

“She will do anything I ask of her,” McNutt said, adding that Honey retrieves his medicine from the refrigerator and brings him diet cokes, and she even turns light switches on or off.

McNutt said he adopted Honey from a shelter when she was 6 months old, and he has owned her for three years. He said in addition to serving as his trained medical companion, she also is a certified therapy dog and frequently goes to hospitals to visit with sick children and elderly patients.

Tarner said the AWS is primarily supported by private donations. The shelter also receives funding from the United Way, Jefferson County Commission and state grants.

Anne Mare, who has served as an AWS board member for the past two years, said the shelter houses 20 to 30 dogs and 30 cats at all times. All animals are spayed or neutered, and they receive vaccinations including rabies and distemper. Some of the services are provided at reduced rates thanks to area veterinary clinics including Appletree, Ranson Animal Hospital and Hillside Veterinary Clinic.

She said the organization rescued more than 500 pets in 2010.

“It can get expensive,” Mare said about the shelter’s costs, adding that the shelter is currently in the planning phase for renovations.

“As anyone can see who comes by, the shelter was originally built as a residence and is 25 years old. We are seeking to expand to accommodate the growing need for animal rescue and care in Jefferson County,” she said. “We can’t stress enough how much we need to grow.”

More information is available at www.awsjc.org.