Hundreds put on the dog for Wag-n-Walk

Hercules takes it in stride as his owner, Robert Ellis, adjusts the crown of the King of Wag-N-Walk.  - Christine Smith
Hercules takes it in stride as his owner, Robert Ellis, adjusts the crown of the King of Wag-N-Walk.
— image credit: Christine Smith

It was Whidbey Island’s biggest doggie-do.

Hundreds, humans and canines alike, came out for this great big party.

Whidbey Animal Improvement Foundation and Free Exercise Time for Canines and their Humans joined forces to host Wag-N-Walk at the off-leash dog park off Patmore Road in Coupeville Sunday, as a joint fundraiser for the two groups that center on the relationships between animals and people.

WAIF cares for homeless animals and finds them permanent homes, while FETCH was organized to promote off-leash dog parks on Whidbey Island. The Wag-N-Walk has evolved into an annual fundraiser for WAIF, with FETCH joining in this year for the first time. Participants raised money walk-a-thon style, then came on out to the park with their pet dogs for socialization, food, contests, information and a pet parade, led by a King dog and Queen dog, former WAIF residents.

There’s nothing quite like a giant Rottweiler dressed in a purple cape and a crown.

The King, a Rottweiler named Hercules, and the Queen, a black Labrador retriever/Rottweiler mix named Sophia, were chosen from entrants in an essay contest. People who had adopted dogs from WAIF within the past year were eligilble for the contest. The theme of the essays focused on the success stories of matches of canines and their humans, resulting in good, permanent homes for the former shelter dogs.

“The big point we made is that he wasn’t the most attractive,” Robert Ellis, Hercules’ owner said of the subject of the essay he and his wife, Lauren Venezia, wrote. “He was overweight at the shelter, his jaw is a bit crooked. But he was really sweet and nice and we took him home. Now he’s down to a nice weight. He goes on long hikes. He’s kind of a dog that people may have overlooked at the shelter, but he’s a really great dog.”

Janet Johnson adopted Sophia four months ago. Sophia is a happy, gentle 11-month-old puppy who is getting very large, Johnson said. Woman and canine have been busy building a close relationship.

“She’s also on the happy ending page at the WAIF (Web) site,” Johnson said of the story of her adoption of Sophia.

While some present at the event were pet supply and novelty vendors, representatives of help organizations or adopters of shelter pets, others were simply supporters of the two groups’ causes.

Sara Gardner, 12, of Oak Harbor, came out to the Wag-N-Walk with her father, Kim Gardner, and her miniature dachshund, Joey.

“I raised all the money,” Sara Gardner said of the more than $60 she gathered in contributions for WAIF and FETCH. She said she strongly supports WAIF’s mission.

“It would be hard. If they didn’t have (shelters) they’d have a whole bunch of stray dogs everywhere, and dogs that were being abused wouldn’t have nowhere else to go,” Sara Gardner said. “And, they wouldn’t have a chance to get a new owner.”

Overall it is safe to say that all the people present at the event were dog-lovers who didn’t seem to mind having drool wiped on their jeans or a bit of fur stuck to their jackets.

After all, this was a dog party.

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