Puttin’ On The Dog puts on a show for animal lovers

The annual Puttin’ On The Dog event at Roger Sherman Baldwin Park attracted plenty of dog lovers like Alexia Barr, above, who cuddled her beloved dog, Lily, as they enjoyed the sunshine and savored Lily’s winning performance in one of the festival’s competitions. But it was also a day to help animals in need of a home get loving owners June, below, made sure people knew she was available for adoption.  — John Ferris Robben photo

The annual Puttin’ On The Dog event at Roger Sherman Baldwin Park attracted plenty of dog lovers like Alexia Barr, above, who cuddled her beloved dog, Lily, as they enjoyed the sunshine and savored Lily’s winning performance in one of the festival’s competitions. But it was also a day to help animals in need of a home get loving owners June, below, made sure people knew she was available for adoption.
— John Ferris Robben photo

Thousands of dog lovers celebrated pet ownership at Adopt-A-Dog’s 26th annual Puttin’ on the Dog festival last Sunday at Roger Sherman Baldwin Park.

And while there was plenty of chances to ooh and aah over which dogs were cutest, including competitions in several categories, the event’s true purpose was to raise funds for the countless number of pooches looking for a home and a second chance.

According to Adopt-A-Dog Executive Director Allyson Halm, the annual festival was another resounding success with plenty of supporters enjoying the day’s festivities. Activities included unusual dog competitions, food, shopping, live entertainment, police and rescue dog demonstrations, a poker-playing pooch named Jilli Dog and, of course, the chance to meet dogs from Adopt-A-Dog and a number of other local shelters and apply to adopt them.

The town turned out in force for the event, as many brought their pets and exhibitors saw it as a chance to raise awareness of various products targeted toward dogs and cats. This was a popular event for families as there was a carnival-type atmosphere, right down to live music from Billy and the Showmen and fried Twinkies and Oreos. Additionally, several dogs competed for top honors at the show before a panel of judges that included Selectman Drew Marzullo and State Reps. Livvy Floren (R-149th) and Fred Camillo (R-151st).

And although Puttin’ on the Dog, Adopt-A-Dog’s biggest fund-raiser, has become a major success, the organization started out more than 30 years ago as nothing more than three community members who were worried about the welfare of local ownerless dogs.

Greenwich residents Donna Nives, Gloria Scheuer and Pam Fahnstock became increasingly concerned that a growing number of dogs were spending the better part of their lives in pounds and shelters because the public was unaware that they were available for adoption. Opting to take action, the women organized a small group of dog lovers to publicize these adoptable dogs, resulting in the creation of Adopt-A-Dog. Since that time, the organization has become an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit and, in 1999, established a kennel facility in Armonk, N.Y., which has evolved into a unique sanctuary for displaced dogs, as well as some cats, that offers animals a good quality of life while they await adoption.

Adopt-A-Dog has aided in the placement of thousands of dogs and cats with loving new owners since its inception, but its services have only been made possible through fund-raisers like Puttin’ on the Dog, according to Ms. Halm. When the event began 26 years ago, she said, adoption events were essentially unheard of. Since then, Adopt-A-Dog has helped pave the way for such events, which now take place “almost every weekend, everywhere,” she added.

Yet while the growth of adoption events is positive, the focus has become more about how “adoptable” the available dogs are, especially with thousands of dogs being shipped north from southern facilities each year. This means those considering adoption are more selective in their consideration of a dog’s breed, age and health, Ms. Halm said, making it difficult for less desirable pooches to find a new home. For this reason, the vast majority of Adopt-A-Dog pets are from the local area, rather than brought in from around the country based on their desirability, she said.

This trend toward selectivity is something Adopt-A-Dog is trying to raise awareness about in hopes of giving all homeless dogs a fighting chance for a loving home outside the shelter, Ms. Halm said. The issue, she added, is about “reaching into people’s hearts and souls and looking beyond what is vogue, looking beyond the fact that this is property, this is possession, this is a product, and really weighing what is rescue and what isn’t.”

Fortunately, this year’s Puttin’ on the Dog resulted in 30 adoption applications, including for animals considered less desirable, for the 15 Adopt-A-Dog pooches that were brought to the event, Ms. Halm said. The application process, she added, takes several days to ensure those applying are not making a spur of the moment decision, but rather will be committed to caring for the animal.

While the rest of the dogs await adoption in Armonk, they are in the loving hands of more than 350 Adopt-A-Dog volunteers, who include special needs adults and teens accompanied by a parent, according to Ms. Halm, who said the organization believes itself to be a community service.

The Adopt-A-Dog sanctuary is open holidays as well as seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and is at 23 Cox Avenue in Armonk, N.Y. For more information or to donate to the nonprofit organization, visit Adoptadog.org or call 914-273-1674.

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