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They're top dog at furry festivals

Two Dunedin events let pooches party, prance and compete for prizes.

By TERRI BRYCE REEVES, Times Correspondent
Published February 8, 2008


DUNEDIN

Dog lovers, dig this: Saturday is "take your dog to the park day" with two different events in Dunedin.

At 9:30 a.m., the Mardi Parti for Pups costume parade trots down Main Street.

Following that, the Pinellas Animal Foundation throws its sixth annual Bowser Games in Highlander Park.

Friendly pets are welcome, but organizers recommend you leave your cats at home. They would likely be overwhelmed and definitely outnumbered.

Both events are free and designed to celebrate the special bond between humans and their animals, said Joan Marzi, executive director of the Pinellas Animal Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of animals.

"It's a day to come, bring your pet and have a good time," she said.

Pet-free humans are welcome. Some may even find a new best friend along the way.

Mardi Parti for Pups gets rolling about 8 a.m. in Pioneer Park in downtown with music, vendors, exhibits, raffles and contests, including an owner and pet look-alike competition.

Register prior to 9:15 a.m. to take part in the costume parade down Main Street, where pooches strut their stuff in Mardi Gras garb.

"Dunedin is very dog-friendly and people tend to go all out for this," said David White, Dunedin's special event coordinator. "In the past, we've had 400 to 500 people take part in the parade."

King and Queen Drools-a-lot, coronated that morning, will lead the parade.

Afterward, Fido's fun day continues at the sixth annual Bowser games at Highlander Park.

The event, which runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., is typically a popular one.

"We count about 5,000 people a year," Marzi said. "Nobody's ever counted all the wet noses."

Partake in or just enjoy the canine competitions, with categories such as "best dressed," "look-alike" and "longest tail." The contests take place between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Winners get medals and all participants receive ribbons.

Agility and disc dogs will demonstrate their respective talents. There will be a chance to run an agility course with tunnels, jumps and weave poles.

About 60 vendors will promote pet-related products and services.

The more somber subject of homeless pets will not be lost amid the festivities. More than a dozen breed-specific rescue groups and local shelters will display dogsin need.

Though actual adoptions won't take place the day of the event, the exposure at the Bowser Games has led to hundreds of pets finding homes.

"We don't know the exact number," Marzi said, "but our feedback from rescue groups and shelters has been very positive."