Dog days of Suffolk

Published 10:09 pm Tuesday, September 17, 2019

It was a pet lover’s paradise at Bennett’s Creek Park on Sunday for the Suffolk Humane Society’s 11th annual Mutt Strut.

About 400 people brought their pets to the park for different vendors and activities, plus plenty of tasty food, cold beverages and music by The Deloreans. There were dogs of all shapes and sizes who sniffed one another and cooled off in the many “Water Stop” kiddie pools.

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“Our Mutt Strut is one of our largest fundraisers,” said Suffolk Humane Society board member Margie Wiley, with $20,000 raised through this year’s event. “It’s a chance for you to bring out your four-legged family and let them experience some time out here at Bennett’s Creek Park.”

There were a wide range of vendors that offered helpful pet services, such as veterinary care and adoptions, along with pet-friendly toys for sale. The Suffolk Police Department K9 Unit had an exciting demonstration, while other dogs enjoyed wearing themselves out on the lure course and agility track.

It was a hot day on Sunday, but the dogs kept cool with the Frosty Paws ice cream eating contest or by simply diving into the Water Stops. That would be the first choice for Coco, a 12-year-old chocolate Lab.

“If I took her over to that pool, she would sit down in it, because that’s her favorite thing in the whole world — and belly rubs,” said Tawny Humphrey, a licensed veterinary technician for the COVE in Suffolk, which stands for the Center Of Veterinary Expertise.

Coco is Humphrey’s first rescue dog, and the two have been together since the dog was just 9 months old. She’s a laid-back dog who loves everybody — a very “easy-going old lady,” Humphrey said.

“This is everyday life with her,” Humphrey said as she scratched Coco’s belly. “She’s spoiled rotten. She’ll steal the couch right out from underneath you.”

Brittany Ellis brought her black Lab puppy Hoss, a wild 10-week-old newbie, as Ellis described him. It was her first Mutt Strut and she was excited to bring cuddle-loving Hoss out to enjoy all the different activities and interact with other dogs.

“I’m really excited because he needs to be out a lot and he likes stuff like this,” Ellis said.

But there were also cold-blooded pets at the tent for the nonprofit VIPER, or Virginians Interested in Protecting Every Reptile.

Among these reptiles at Bennett’s Creek Park were a turtle, bearded dragon, dwarf Caiman crocodile and a red-tailed boa that rested comfortably on the shoulders of member Bethany Calhoun.

Calhoun estimated that the boa was about 30 to 40 pounds and 5 to 6 feet in length, and she said that the snake is a “lovebug” of pure muscle.

“She’s really behaved, and she’s good with kids,” Calhoun said as the boa casually moved on her shoulders.

According to board member Wiley, the purpose of Mutt Strut is to raise awareness on proper care for animals and to connect pet owners with helpful resources and services. It’s also great experience for these pets to become more comfortable with loud noises, people and other dogs.

These owners want what’s best for their pets, because in many cases they’re not just pets, they’re family.

They’re four-legged family members like Tricia and Jesse McAllister’s American Eskimo dogs, Meeko and Kira. Tricia McAllister said they’re “very barky” and full of energy — especially the smaller, more stubborn female, Kira.

But they’re still awesome members of their family, and the McAllisters enjoyed taking them to their first Mutt Strut on Sunday.

“It’s a nice opportunity to get them out and walk around with other dogs,” Tricia McAllister said as Meeko and Kira laid in the grass with their tongues out and heads getting scratches.