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Social event, but ruff crowd

At both ends of the leash, the Humane Society's annual Bark in the Park attracts those who delight in dogs.

By CHRISTOPHER GOFFARD, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 17, 2002


TAMPA -- Jack Novoselski remembers the day he became a dog man.

It happened last May when a skittish, abused-looking stray beagle wandered up to him at the Vandenberg Airport outside Brandon, where Novoselski works painting airplanes. He and his wife took the dog in and named him Dolittle.

"He had a lot of issues when we found him. He's happy now, a floppy-eared sack of fat," said Novoselski, 56, who was maneuvering the dog between the hundreds of others wandering with their owners Saturday through Al Lopez Park. All were there for the annual Bark in the Park fundraiser for the Tampa Bay Humane Society.

Dogs encountered each other, greeted, sniffed, and ambled on. Scanning a peaceful swarm of poodles, collies, and retrievers lapping up bottled water from communal bowls, Novoselski said, "Look at all these dogs, and there's no arguments. People should be that friendly."

The event, which featured dog races and dozens of booths for animal welfare groups, dog-training clubs and pet-supply businesses, was expected to raise $50,000 for the Humane Society.

"It's a great time for (dogs) to socialize and be social animals," said Linda Baker, the local society director.

Turi Savitt, 40, a Safety Harbor woman who trains with the Ketch This Flyball Racing Team, held tight to the leash as Lilly, an 80-pound Labrador, lurched forward to beat other dogs over a series of hurdles toward a tennis ball.

"She lives for (racing), tennis balls and swimming pools," Savitt said. "Three things in life."

Brian Cohen, 29, of Tampa, a volunteer with the animal rights group VOCAL (Voice of Compassion for Animal Life), held a pamphlet promoting shelter adoptions as he walked Zen, a friend's Great Dane.

"When you buy an animal from a pet store, one will die at the shelter," Cohen said.

Cohen, who sniffled as he walked, owns no dogs of his own. "I'm allergic to dogs like crazy," he said. "I'm constantly medicated."

Tampa Mayor Dick Greco and his wife, Linda, brought their dainty brown poodle, Holly, which wore pink ribbons on its ears. Greco sometimes takes the dog with him around town in his city-issued Lincoln. It makes a peculiar sight when he walks up to crime scenes, he said, as he frequently does.

Admiring a Yorkshire terrier, Greco spoke of the power of dogs as icebreakers.

"You should have gotten one before you got married," Greco told a recently married acquaintance. "Then all the women come up."

-- Christopher Goffard can be reached at 226-3337 or goffard@sptimes.com

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