Hundreds of them were ambling happily through Fort Steilacoom Park in Lakewood Saturday, participating in the 25th Dog-a-thon, sponsored by the Humane Society of Tacoma and Pierce County.
And the people looked pretty pleased, too.
“We have always supported dogs. They’re great company,” said Steve Jaech of Steilacoom, who was there with his wife, Kathrina, and their two Welsh corgis, Toby and Dewi. They have been coming to the dog-a-thon for 10 years.
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The event raises money for pet adoption programs. Pet owners collect pledge dollars, then walk designated park paths with their pets. Doggie treat stations and water buckets are placed strategically along the trail.
A donation of at least $30 earns your pooch a dog-a-thon bandana. Last year, the event raised a record $253,000 that helped find homes for more than 6,000 pets.
Usually about 1,000 people register for the dog-a-thon, and many bring multiple animals (along with ample pooper scooper bags).
Every dog has a story, it seems.
Terri Baker of Tacoma and her rescue dog Riley came to their first dog-a-thon last year. Riley’s picture wound up on a poster advertising this year’s event, Baker said. He is a Basenji mix.
“Basenji’s don’t usually bark,” she explained. But Riley does, thanks to his non-Basenji genes.
Del Hinzpeter and Diana Christensen of Edgewood walked with their dogs, Tesse, a Sheltie-border collie mix, and Bandit, a mixed Chihuahua and miniature pinscher.
“They’re both rescue dogs,” explained Christensen. “We got Tesse six years ago, and she is the love of our life.”
Then two years ago, they returned to the Cascade Animal Protection Society to adopt Bandit.
Traveling salesman Carlos Cruz of Federal Way was just wasting time on his lunch break one day in Longview when he stumbled on Minnie, who is possibly Australian shepherd.
“I saw a sign, I went in and took her for a walk,” he said. “I saw how beautiful she is.”
Soon, money had changed hands and Minnie was in the back seat on her way to her new home to join three other dogs in the family: Wiley, Bandit and Sherman.
“I took a selfie with her and told her, ‘You are really going to like where you’re going.’”
Given the number of canine participants gathered at the park Saturday, the atmosphere was surprisingly calm with only occasional barking. Event coordinator Shelby Taylor said that’s because participants are usually “dog savvy” and know to leave more rambunctious pets at home.
Jim Osmer of Federal Way said he almost left his dog Blixa at home.
“She’s an angel on walks, but a devil at home,” he said. “She gets very excited.”
But Blixa — a cancer survivor who has also participated in the American Cancer Society Relay for Life — made it to the dog-a-thon wearing her pink tutu.
Osmer’s wife, Shana, has spent years volunteering for the humane society and the Northwest Spay and Neuter Center. She’s currently a volunteer animal handler at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium.
Clearly, animals bring her joy.
“If we could choose to surround ourselves with more animals, we’d have more compassion — we’d have a more peaceful world,” she said.