Puttin’ on the dog… A success for local canines and their humans

p1-puttin-on-dogIf the expression that “every dog has its day” was ever in doubt, then last week’s annual Puttin’ on the Dog Festival likely cinched its veracity this past Sunday.

Roger Sherman Baldwin Park played host once again to the day in honor of man’s (and woman’s) best friend put together by Adopt-A-Dog. This year marked the 25th year that the organization has celebrated Puttin’ on the Dog, and they brought out all of the stops for what is one of the town’s most popular events.

It was an afternoon full of canine-themed fun, including everything from a dog show competition and a parade of dogs available for adoption to an appearance by Jilli, the world’s only poker playing dog. Dogs of all colors, breeds, sizes and ages flocked to the park, with their owners and families in tow, of course.

The afternoon was emceed by ABC meteorologist and Greenwich resident Bill Evans, who has been a vocal and ardent Adopt-A-Dog supporter for more than five years. Joining him as part of the afternoon’s entertainment was Laughing Pizza, who provided an upbeat and family-friendly soundtrack to the event with a concert.

But the day wasn’t about the humans. It was all about their four-legged friends, and a serious contender for the crowd’s attention were the numerous dog shows throughout the day, with canines competing for prizes in tongue-in-cheek categories such as “best tail wagger” for those exuberant dogs out there, “mixed with the most” for the best of blends, and “pooch you can smooch.”

Owners proudly showcased their pets, beaming as each received a special ribbon for participating.

“About 200 dogs are estimated to partake today. The dog shows are a low key and fun event where everybody wins,” said Ellie Gerli, an Adopt-A-Dog volunteer for more than two decades.

Included in this lineup of winners was Bagel the beagle, who took home a shiny blue ribbon for being the winner of best smooch. His proud owners, Lenny and Nelly Ayala, proudly posed for photos, and sang his praises, saying, “He is a perfect dog, that is good with kids, people, and even cats. We rescued him from an abusive family and while we started off as foster parents for just one week we just couldn’t give him away.”

On the other side of the park, countless vendors were hawking anything and everything dog related. Dog business and services from all over the Westchester and Fairfield County areas, such as The Honest Kitchen, Stella & Chewy, and Champion Pet Foods were represented in full force. There were dog food samples, clothing, animal health screenings and even family pet portraits. There were even a few perks for the many children in attendance, with face-painting stations and inflatable bounce houses.

A silent auction full of goodies caught many an onlooker’s eye, and a midday dog parade promenading all of the dogs up for adoption was a heartwarming sight. At the end of the day, despite a jam-packed schedule of entertaining dog shows and a myriad of other distractions, there was no losing sight of the ultimate goal of raising money for the organization, and finding homes for dogs in need.

Over the years, the festival has turned into quite an entertaining affair, but its original goals of promoting pet ownership and animal welfare awareness is not lost. People are coming to celebrate their pets, shop for their pets, and hopefully even adopt one of their own.

Allyson Halm, Adopt-A-Dog president and Puttin’ on the Dog’s co-founder, has witnessed first-hand the festival’s evolution over the past two and a half decades. She said that every year it’s a celebration a year in the making, with the hard work and effort of a team of more than 150 volunteers on the day of the event and a team of roughly 35 individuals involved in planning. She added that its growth is in part thanks to the support of the event’s sponsors, the Veterinary Care Center, Cornell University’s Animal Emergency Specialty, Canine Company and main presenter, Pet Pantry, which has a store in Greenwich.

“It has definitely become quite an exciting day that takes a full year to plan. We are already beginning to prepare for next year’s! This year is notable in that it is our first to have entertainment. I can’t imagine a future festival without one now,” Ms. Halm said.

All proceeds from the event go towards the upkeep of the animal shelter and the continued care of its pets, which has placed upwards of 13,000 pets in new homes across the United States, since 1981. Much of these funds will support the shelter’s substantial medical and vet bills, for dogs and cats, both young and old.

By all accounts, the festival was a success, with hordes of crowds enjoying themselves, and seemingly endless numbers of cute and cuddly pets on display. By the affair’s half-way point, three pets had already been successfully adopted into new homes. It was a day of support from animal advocates of all ages, and the overall message of pet welfare and support was heard loud and clear.

“There are so many animals in need in our area, and we want to do everything we can to raise awareness,” said Ms. Halm.


All photos by Post photographer John Ferris Robben.

















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