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Dogs at Pet Palooza at the Athens County Fairgrounds in Athens, Ohio. Sep. 23, 2023.

Pet Palooza debuts in Athens

What began as two single events, the car Cruise-In and the Shelter Dog Strut 5k, evolved into a large fundraiser with the Athens County Humane Society and Friends of the Shelter Dogs. Pet Palooza, an event centered around celebrating furry friends, made its debut in Athens Saturday, Sept. 23. 

Pet Palooza took place at the Athens County Fairgrounds from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and was hosted by the Athens County Humane Society and Friends of the Shelter Dogs. The event, free of charge to attendees, aimed to promote animal adoption while educating the Athens community on the importance of proper pet health and care. New pet owners, animal fanatics and especially those interested in adopting learned about ways to take care of their furry best friend. 

“There are really two main missions I would say,” said Jenny Lance, a volunteer for Friends of the Shelter Dogs. “One is educating the public on pet education, making sure they understand how to take care of pets and all the different things you can do, so we have demonstrations of acupressure and grooming and animal communication. (The other is) to get some of the dogs from the shelter out and about and adopted.”

Pet education is important for any type of owner. Pet Palooza welcomes those who have first-hand experience in the field to teach the community about different ways they can provide for their pets. 

“We’re making a big appearance here,” said Marshall Aanestad, the owner of Athens Veterinary Clinic. “I’m actually putting on a talk, and I’ll be fielding questions from the public (about) pretty much anything they want to ask.”

The event included fun opportunities such as a ““Kiss the Pooch” kissing booth, face painting and musical performances to entertain attendees.

Pet Palooza offered numerous speakers, activities and roaming events themed around pet education. The day’s schedule included sessions like Melanie Yoder, executive director of BARC, speaking on mental enrichment for pets. BARC stands for Behavior Analysis Reform for Companions, a science-backed training program for pets.

Not only did Pet Palooza provide a learning aspect, but it also served as a wonderful way for those who live in Athens to become involved within the community and create new connections.

“I feel like it’s nice to always have an Athens event,” said Kaiya Hansen, who works for Windy Ridge Kennel. “It’s hard to get out into your community sometimes. Stuff like this makes it fun to get out.”

The volunteers also exhibited a passion for pets and animal education. Most had pets that are rescued from the humane society while others demonstrated their passion through ways such as fostering. 

Tiffany Davis, a volunteer for the Athens County Humane Society, is the proud foster mom of a family of cats. Davis said the cats came from a trap-neuter-return location, and she was able to take home a mom cat and her three kittens.

“They are a family,” Davis said. “We have Mamma Ash, and then her three kittens Spruce, Poplar and Cedar. They’re now fully vetted, spayed and neutered and ready to go.” 

Davis mentioned the cats are still available for adoption, but she is proud of the progress they have made.

Pet Palooza caters to a wide-ranging audience. Adults, children and especially those who want to adopt were encouraged to attend, and several also brought their pets along for the fun. It was a great way for those who love animals to join forces with passionate and hardworking volunteers for a good cause.

Beneath the fun events lay serious messaging too. Lance spoke about the mistreatment many dogs and pets face when they are unwanted by their owners. She said her mission is to help make these animals’ lives better.

“Somebody has to do something and everybody in this world has something they’re passionate about … so I just started doing that when I moved to the Athens area 15 years ago,” Lance said. “I just went to the shelter, now I’m hooked.”

Despite Pet Palooza being only one day a year, the Athens County Humane Society and Friends of the Shelter Dogs encourage those looking for a new furry friend to reach out. There is always going to be an animal looking for a new home, and the perfect owner could be right around the corner.


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