Thousands of people – many with their dogs – came to “Pet Rock” Sunday at Deering Oaks to celebrate their companions and raise money for the Animal Cancer Foundation.
The park was full of dogs of all different sizes, from big, fluffy English Shepherds, hounds and Labradors to smaller Dachshunds and lots of mixed breeds.
A range of pet businesses, trainers and other dog organizations also took part in the event, put on by founding sponsors Radio Station Rewind 100.9 and Portland Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Care.
The “Smooch a Pooch” booth at one veterinarian hospital’s tent was an especially big hit.
Chamberlain, a seven-month-old Golden Retriever, wasn’t shy about giving out slobbery licks as hundreds of people passed by.
“He’s my dog, but he spends a lot of time at the Back Cove Animal Hospital where I work,” said Richele Chatto. Chamberlain was in the booth “to draw folks to our tent to learn about the hospital.”
It worked. Chamberlain was a magnet.
Phil Zachary, market president of Portland Radio Group, said attendance was near 4,000, not counting the dogs.
“If you looks at these folks, they’re just loving showing off their friends,” Zachary said. “This is our 11th year. We raise funds for Animal Cancer Research. We have 70 vendors, a lot of rescue organizations.”
People can learn about pet nutrition, dog training, socializing their dogs, and enjoy a big meet-and-greet with lots of dogs.
“It’s a fun day for pet owners and their furry friends. It’s a cool thing to do,” Zachary said. “You can come out here and rescue an animal.”
Andria Botting of New Hampshire came with her daughter, Maggie, 3, looking to adopt.
“This is our first time here,” Botting said. “We came to get in touch with shelters to adopt a dog. We love dogs.”
Will Muzzey, of Standish, said Sunday was his fourth “Pet Rock” and that it’s a good place to learn about pet food and nutrition. Standing near four puppies up for adoption, he smiled and watched.
“I love seeing the puppies,” Muzzey said, adding he adopted his dog, Kona, at Pet Rock three years ago. “My dog is great,” he said. “She always wants to run around and play. I love dogs. They show love.”
Vanessa Gauger of New Gloucester shrugged and laughed when asked about her her dog, Ryman, a medium-sized, brown-and-white mix.
“He’s a mystery mutt, maybe part collie and some hound, among others,” she said.
She described Ryman, 3, as “a really good boy.”
“He makes me laugh every day. My dad says he wakes up happy to be a dog.”
Barbara Cohen, executive director of the Animal Cancer Foundation, said dogs getting cancer has become too common, especially among older dogs. About 50 percent of dogs over the age of 10 are struck by cancer, she said.
Dogs are being diagnosed with cancer more often because medical tools have improved, and veterinarians are detecting it more often. Plus, there are more pets in homes treated like family members, often receiving better medical care than in the past.
One way to prevent cancer in dogs is, like people, to keep them from being overweight, Cohen said.
“Obesity is a high risk factor for cancer” for dogs and people, she said. “Exercising is a wonderful thing to do for yourself and your pet.”
Another reason for more cancer in dogs may be pesticides that have been linked to cancer, Cohen said. She recommends not allowing your pets to walk on a lawns treated by chemicals.
“It can have a possible health impact,” Cohen said. “We have to become more aware of the runoff of those things going into our waterways.”
Cohen also said it’s a good idea to talk to your veterinarian about what food your dog needs. Different breeds have different nutritional needs, she said.
“Think of your pet as an individual, the same way we’re personalizing medicine for people.”
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