Pooches put best paws forward at ‘Bark in the Park’

Daisy and Lydia Hindle. PHOTO BY JOSHUA KODIS

Canines ruled the school at the Humane Society of Vero Beach and Indian River County’s 12th annual, exceedingly ‘pupular’ Bark in the Park event at Riverside Park.

With the original date postponed one day by weather, the all-day event, though windy, chilly and gray, nevertheless brought together around 500 pooches of all makes and models, several thousand humans, young and old, and some 60 vendors.

A ginormous inflatable pooch of indeterminate breed loomed benevolently above the stage, music filled the air, along with woofs and yaps aplenty, and eager, well-behaved pooches, many sporting coats, jackets and hats against the chill, socialized politely.

To the delight of dogs and humans alike, there was a new addition this year. Bubbles shot from a ‘cannon’ drifted above the festivities from the Bubble Bus. The bubbles were particularly appealing to the dog contingent, said Steve Smith, event coordinator/HSVB marketing director, because they were bacon-scented – woof!

Excitement heightened as competitors took turns zooming around a lure course in pursuit of a prize toy, and a new 40-yard dash was also a hit with the speedy, energetic contingent.

The costume competition and doggy look-alike contest generated laughter and applause, revealing significant human creativity and canine indulgence. For the two-legged attendees, there were food vendors, pooch-centric merch booths and a kids’ zone.

Performances included the athletic Disc-Connected K9S Frisbee dogs, and the Ultimate Diving Dogs, both highlighting leaping skills – the former to nab high-flung Frisbees, and the latter, flying off a dock to grab toys before splashing into a huge tank of water.

The crowd cheered the Puppy Pals Comedic Stunt Dog Show – familiar to many from their appearance on TV’s “America’s Got Talent” – with some audience participation from young attendees. And always impressive, the highly skilled law enforcement dogs of the Indian River County Sheriff’s K-9 unit and their partners demonstrated their own skills.

The Humane Society’s new CEO, Liz Smokowski, was delighted to see the robust turnout and shared her excitement about her journey from Colorado to Vero Beach, “from the mountains to the sand.” She said she was eager, “with our dedicated team, to begin enhancing our programs and services. It’s all about the cats and dogs, about adoption.”

As well as a fun day for pets and their humans, Bark in the Park is a great way to generate awareness of the hundreds of dogs, cats and other animals that need loving adoptive homes. Funds raised, says Smith, “benefit homeless, lost and at-risk animals in our community.”

For more information, visit HSVB.org.

Photos by Joshua Kodis

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