Cats, watch your step, it's the big doggie doo

At the 40-acre Patmore Pit off-leash dog park in Coupeville, it isn’t unusual to feel a little outnumbered by man’s best friend.

But on Sunday, during the fifth-annual Wag ‘n’ Walk sponsored by Whidbey Animals Improvement Foundation (WAIF) and Free Exercise Time for Canines and their Humans (FETCH), the park had completely gone to the dogs.

Over 400 humans obediently brought their dogs to the annual “doggie doo,” which helped raise around $10,000 for the WAIF shelter and for maintaining Whidbey’s five FETCH off-leash parks The event also helped build awareness for healthy and happy dog stewardship and celebrate once orphaned dogs’ new homes.

“While it does raise much needed money for both organizations, Wag ‘n’ Walk is more of an outreach and friend raiser than a fundraiser,” said Pat Buchanan, FETCH president.

The festivities opened with the introduction of this year’s Wag ‘n’ Walk king and queen and royal court, selected by a pre-Wag essay contest.

With a royal wave of a tail, the pledge parade began filled with decked-out canines and their owners. Last year’s king, Buster, made an appearance at Wag ‘n’ Walk after he came out of retirement this year to take the agility circuit by storm.

The American Idol contest was a dog eat dog competition where fun hounds were found and no stupid human tricks were allowed. Celebrity judges Simon Howl, Poodle Abdul, and Randy Jackrussel laid low and let the crowd be the decision makers over who was top dog. In the end, all dogs at the event were judged winners, each receiving a pat on the head and dog treat of choice.

A 50-yard dash fun run tested canine agility, and for some, mastery of listening to owners’ commands.

And for dogs who chose, or just naturally laid low, there were vendor booths filled with tasty dog treats and the trendiest dog fashions, and informational booths introducing people to WAIF, FETCH and the up-to-date in dog training, veterinary techniques and other pet care needs.

Always a highlight of this annual event was the spot light on WAIF shelter alumni who gladly trot into the festival with tails wagging and owners in tow.

“It’s great to give back to the many people who’ve given to us,” said Shari Bibich, WAIF’s shelter manager. “We often get bogged down in the shelter so it’s great to see our alumni come back happy, healthy having put come weight on and tails wagging because they recognize you.”

None of the dog-gone madness fazed a crowd that lives on an island with quite possibly more dog parks per capita than any other place in the world. Some FETCH research shows that with a population of 74,000 and five dog parks, Whidbey Island claims 14,800 people per park. Further research found the location with the closest dog park-to-human ratio was Anchorage, Alaska, at 50,200 people for each of its five dog parks.

Past Wag ‘n’ Walk funds helped FETCH get going with initial park acreage purchases, fencing supplies, the building of kiosks at the parks and shelters at some of the parks, as well as the dog wash at Double Bluff.

“For us the two organizations go hand in hand, because we feel off-leash parks help WAIF shelter dogs remain in homes,” Buchanan said. “The dogs go to the parks and come back tired and happy and not wanting to run away.”

Continued education and fundraising for the off-leash parks is vital, according to Buchanan, because FETCH fees membership fees bring in minimal monetary support and up keep and maintenance is important.

Future possible projects for FETCH include completely fencing portions of the Patmore Pit park, building more shelters and kiosks at the parks and an ongoing need for poop bags.

WAIF’s portion from Wag ‘n’ Walk will help defer the shelter’s costs of helping to feed, house, and keep healthy the over 1,000 dogs and cats the shelter helps each year, according to WAIF executive director Leslie Mills.

“Outreach from Wag ‘n’ Walk is essential to organizations such as WAIF,” said co-event coordinator Vicki Payne of FETCH. “People think it’s great that WAIF is an non-kill shelter and animals can stay there as long as needed, but they need to remember it takes time and money to keep these animals happy healthy and ready to find new homes.”

WAIF is currently researching possible site locations for a future shelter to expand WAIF’s ability to serve the needs of the Whidbey dog and cat community.

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