SPCA's downtown K9 walk a success despite cold, wet weather

tmcdonald@newsobserver.comApril 19, 2014 

— Too bad dog owners didn’t outfit their beloved pooches in raincoats and other wet-weather apparel.

The four-legged wonders might have appreciated that kind of attire Saturday in downtown Raleigh, where hundreds of dogs and their owners gathered under cold, drizzling skies for the SPCA of Wake County’s 15th annual K9-3K Dog Walk.

Leon Christopher, 28, and his wife, Carrie, 24, of Cary – mindful of the rain and temperatures that hovered in the 40s – outfitted their 1-1/2-year-old pit bull Thor in a blue hoodie. The Christophers adopted Thor and another pit bull, Penny, who stayed home Saturday.

“They’re so sweet,” Carrie Christopher said about the breed, which sometimes is seen as a dangerous one.

Most of the dogs that participated in the walk wore a number, and Thor had 1524 affixed to his collar.

“We just followed the crowd,” Leon Christopher said. “It’s cold and raining, but we decided to come out anyway because it’s for a good cause.”

Organizers on Saturday said the charity event is the centerpiece of a yearlong effort to raise money that enables the city’s oldest animal welfare organization to take care of dogs that end up at the shelter.

Each year the no-kill shelter on Petfinder Lane in South Raleigh takes in about 4,000 animals, said Kim Janzen, the agency’s executive director. The SPCA expects to find homes for more than 95 percent of them.

“So many of them have health and behavioral needs, and this helps us to make them ready for their new homes so that they will live happily ever after,” she said.

The SPCA also uses the donations to run a program to help dog owners keep their pets in homes and out of the shelter. The program has an animal behaviorist on staff who helps with problem pets, such as a dog that continues to bark. There’s also a food assistance program for owners who have trouble feeding their pets, along with spay and neutering services.

“This is our largest fundraiser of the year,” said SPCA spokeswoman Darci Vandersilk.

This year’s fundraising goal is $250,000.

Vandersilk said about 75 percent of the agency’s financial goal had been reached by 1 p.m. Saturday.

“Yesterday, two little boys, 4 and 6, came by and donated $98.47 they had raised from a lemonade stand,” she said. “For us, that’s what today is all about.”

More than 4,000 people registered to participate in the walk, but Vandersilk wasn’t sure how many showed up. Still, she said she appreciated people and animals who were undeterred by the weather.

“We have the most diehard supporters,” she said. “They come out in rain or dark of night. The diehards are here, but even the ones who aren’t here, we give them love because we couldn’t make our goal without them.”

In addition to the walk, some of the animals participated in events such as the dog kissing contest, the dog and owner lookalike – won by a mixed collie named Charlie Rose who, along with her owner, wore a pink tutu – and the howling contest, ably won by a black dachshund named Ziggy whose ear-piercing ruckus got most of the human and animal crowd caterwauling like banshees.

Donna Deaton and her 14-year-old daughter Lindsey, both of Fuquay-Varina, were impressed.

“Gosh, we got them all started,” she said about the loud canine symphony.

Zuri, a 6-year-old cream-colored Chinese crested powderpuff, didn’t participate in the howling contest. Zuri was rocking purple and turquoise ear bling and a feather extension atop his head.

Still, when Zuri’s owner, Jesi Kirk, the owner of Howling Moon Pet Care, started howling, the little dog lifted his head and sang a lovely accompaniment: “Awhooooooo.”

Vendors’ tents such as the Howling Moon dotted the lawn of Moore Square and lined the sidewalks of City Market, which partnered with the SPCA to host the event in the heart of downtown.

Tim Blandford, 32, and his girlfriend, Laurissa Charpentier, were there with Dakota, a 3-year-old yellow collie mix.

Blandford didn’t hesitate when asked why it was important to support the county’s homeless dog population.

“Why?” he asked. “Because they are family.”

McDonald: 919-829-4533

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