There are rescue events and then there's Woofstock.
Many of Pennsylvania's best known rescue groups, several thousand dog lovers - and an estimated one thousand dogs, from purse pets to Great Danes - turned out in force in Harrisburg on Sunday for the ninth annual Woofstock event.
My rescue gal pal Olivia and I were among them.We strolled the jam-packed Susquehanna River bank, picked up a cup of peanut butter ice cream and looked over the booths filled with puppy treats and pet-themed artwork for owners.
Fair-goers were treated to doggie makeovers, costume and photo contests, book signings (including with Main Line author Larry Levin, who penned the best-seller "Oogie" about his rescued pit bull) photo shoots with celebrities, including Hollywood star Jon Provost, better known as Timmy on the "Lassie" series. Pet owners could get tips for rambunctious pups at the Ask-A-Trainer booth or get a little pampering themselves with a chair massage.
It was heartening to see so many rescue groups, including many breed rescues and shelters on hand to talk about their work and show some of their adoptable dogs. And it was great to see so many folks dedicated to pit bull rescue (my favorite T-shirt "Show me your Pitties" with two strategically-placed paws), because they are the number one inhabitor of urban shelters and the most likely to be destroyed.
Delaware Valley Golden Retriever Rescue brought along some of their adoptable dogs, including at least one puppy mill survivor. The group does fabulous work rehabilitating and placing breeding dogs who have lived their lives under the cruelest conditions.
We ran into Tamira Thayne, founder of Dogs Deserve Better, who drove up from her chained-dog rescue and rehab facility (formerly Michael Vick's dog fighting house of horrors) near Norfolk, Va., She was holding an autographed copy of "Oogie" and surveying the large crowd. Thayne said she has never seen a rescue event quite as large as this one.
The event benefits Central Pennsylvania Animal Alliance (CPAA), which readers of this blog will recall, stepped in to save the stray animals of Harrisburg when the city and the Humane Society of Harrisburg Area were in a fight over the animal control contract and the Humane Society abruptly stopped taking in the city's cats and dogs. CPAA maintains one of the most active fund raising calendars I've seen. Hardly a week goes by without a Yappy Hour, dinner or dance to benefit its spay/neuter programs, which include the fabulously named "De-Sex in the City" to provide low cost and free pet altering for Harrisburg residents.
It was great to see major retailers like Petco and PetSmart, along with major insurance companies and car dealers which had booths there, supporting the cause of rescued animals.
Olivia and I were on our way home when we happened upon the historic St. Stephens Episcopal Church on Front St. just as the clergy were welcoming fair-goers to a blessing of the pets (Dogs of all faiths welcome). We ducked into the church with two dozen others, including a man whose large Doberman who decided to park himself on his owner's lap in the pew. There were hymns (All Things Bright and Beautiful" of course) and several short readings before pets and their people lined up in the aisle of the 1826 church for a personal blessing from the Very Reverend Churchill G. Pinder who knelt on a knee, put a hand on each furry head and blessed every one as they approached the alter.