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Dogs have their day with ‘Paws on Parade’

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Dogs have their day with ‘Paws on Parade’ (Photo courtesy of Bangor Humane Society/FacesMaine)

BANGOR - Wagging tails and strutting mutts will gather with their people on the Bangor Waterfront this Saturday, Sept. 30, for the 24th annual edition of Paws on Parade, the largest fundraiser of the year for Bangor Humane Society.

This year’s theme for Paws on Parade is “Unleash The Paw-tential,” this according to BHS executive director Suzan Prendergast and director of development and public relations Stacey Coventry.

“We have about 25 teams registered, and almost 200 individuals already signed up, so that’s really exciting,” Coventry said during an interview for BIG 104 FM (104.7 in the greater Bangor area).

Well-behaved dogs on leashes are encouraged to take part in Paws on Parade, although according to Coventry, it is not essential that your dog is present.

“There’s a misconception that you can’t come if don’t have a dog, or if you think your dog won’t enjoy it,” she said.

“If your dog would be happier staying home on the couch, we encourage you to let them do that, but we hope you’ll still join us,” Prendergast added.

In addition to the mile-and-a-half walk, which will begin at 9:30 a.m., Paws on Parade will feature contests, 25 pet-related vendors onsite and a Shelter Dog Runway Show.

During the Runway Show, pets awaiting adoption will have a moment in the spotlight to hopefully make a connection with the right adopter, as details about their personalities are conveyed to the crowd in a style reminiscent of a personal advertisement.

Typically, each of the dogs who appear in the Runway Show are adopted soon after; Bangor Humane Society reopens their doors at noon on the Monday following the event.

On Friday evening, Sept. 29, starting at 8:00 p.m., The Focus Group – purveyors of improvisational comedy, will put on their annual pre-Paws on Parade fundraising show, “The Focus Group Goes to the Dogs” at 39 Center St. in Brewer. More on that event, from Focus Group member Allen Adams, appears elsewhere in this story.

More than just a fun morning walk with your best friend, Paws on Parade has become essential in helping Bangor Humane Society meet their ongoing mission – to champion the humane treatment and adoption of companion animals, provide quality care for homeless pets, and promote animal welfare through education and advocacy.

The Bangor Humane Society sees approximately 3,000 animals come through their doors each year, down from 5,000 annually 10 years ago and 10,000 annually in the mid to late ‘90s.

That significant shift in numbers can be attributed, in part, to the shelter’s commitment to spaying and neutering every pet before it is rehomed, according to Prendergast and Coventry.

“When I started nine years ago, we saw a massive number of pets coming through the doors,” Prendergast said. “It was a case of moving them in and moving them out as fast as we could. Today, we’re seeing a much lower number because of spaying and neutering, both here and in the community.”

While the number of dogs coming through the door has remained relatively consistent, the cat numbers are half of what they used to be, according to Prendergast.

“If you’re a shelter not doing spay and neuter, you’re still inundated with cats,” she said.

Some pets who find themselves at Bangor Humane Society need immediate medical attention before they can be placed for adoption.

“The back half of our building is almost like a vet clinic now,” said Prendergast. “We’re seeing more critical needs now. We don’t see a lot of animal abuse in Maine but we do see a lot of neglect. Back then, the staff was walking, feeding and cleaning the animals, now they’re giving meds and arranging vet appointments.”

Coventry offered an example of how the money raised by Paws on Parade is spent by Bangor Humane Society.

“We recently invested $5,000 in medical care for a dog we are currently spotlighting. She had been living in a home with two other dogs and the person was not able to care for her. She had a tooth abscess that actually came through her cheek,” Coventry said of the dog, which underwent multiple surgeries in an attempt to overcome the abscess and subsequent infection.

“Because it was oral, the infection went into both ears. She basically had to have both inner-ear canals removed. The surgery was so intense and invasive, she had temporary facial paralysis afterward. When she came to us, she couldn’t eat and was really depressed. After her surgery, she made a full recovery in foster care and is ready to be adopted now.”

The dog Coventry spoke of was in the care of Bangor Humane Society for five months – a testament to the organization’s commitment to animal welfare.

“The money raised by Paws on Parade is primarily invested in pets with no other place to go,” Prendergast said. “They are great pets who need the investment in care and the time to reach the right adopters.” 

Both Prendergast and Coventry are quick to credit the BHS staff, volunteers and board of directors for helping to fulfill the organization’s mission.

“We have the best staff and volunteers in the state,” said Prendergast. “They are selfless. I’ve never worked anywhere where I’ve had to tell people that they can’t volunteer to do their job.”

Prendergast also cited the BHS board of directors for their dedication to the organization’s staff - and to the animals.

“If we need to invest $5,000 to save a dog, I can go to them, tell them about the dog’s circumstances, and they approve it,” she said. “We are very fortunate to have a board of directors who cares about these animals as much as the staff and volunteers.”

For some Paws on Parade participants, part of the fun of Paws on Parade involves friendly competition.

For several years, the leading fundraising team was Kindred Spirits Veterinary Clinic in Orrington, headed by Dr. Mark Hanks. Two years ago, a new top fundraiser stepped up.

“In 2015, Laurie Qualey, one of our board members who runs our ‘Pets on Laps’ program, and Lani Naihe, our board president (of Mount Desert Island Hospital), merged and called themselves ‘The Little Elves,’” Coventry explained. “They took the title of top-earning team. Everyone said ‘Oh my gosh, someone has dethroned Dr. Hanks and Kindred Spirits!’”

Another board member, Russ Maynard, co-chair of Paws on Parade, decided to get involved in an attempt to claim the top fundraising position.

“Last year, his team (‘Blackstream Cycle Misfits’) broke the all-time Paws on Parade fundraising record. They raised over $16,000,” Coventry said.

The top fundraising team will receive the coveted Paws on Parade trophy, in addition to bragging rights for a full year.

At the time writing, Kindred Spirits Vet Clinic is in the lead with nearly $14,000 raised, followed by Blackstream Cycle Misfits with nearly $11,000 raised to date.

The top individual fundraiser as of this writing is Kara Swartz, with nearly $7,200 raised to date.

“Kara is one of our foster parents,” Coventry says. “She has two German shepherds who love to help foster pets to get them ready for their forever homes. She made them internet-famous a couple of years ago when she filmed a video of them nursing a litter of kittens. She has a worldwide fanbase now, and her dogs just landed on the cover of Maine Dog Magazine.”

Bangor Humane Society has set a goal of reaching at least $75,000 in donations for this year’s edition of Paws on Parade. The total will assist the organization in the fulfillment of its mission for the coming year.

“We try to match pets with owners who will give them a good home, and we also try to look at every pet as an individual and do everything that is possible to find them that home,” Suzan Prendergast said. “Sometimes it happens quickly. Sometimes it takes a few days, a few weeks or a few months. There’s a home for every animal out there.” 

(Paws on Parade has 16 major sponsors. The lead sponsor is Cross Insurance. The rest are as follows: WBRC Architects and Engineers, Quirk Subaru, WABI TV 5, Dysart’s, Wallace Events, Veazie Veterinary Clinic, Green Acres Kennel Shop, MEMIC, Eaton Peabody, Bangor Savings Bank, Broadway Veterinary Clinic, Carden Kennels, R.F Jordan & Sons Construction, Berry Dunn – CPAs & Consultants, and Katahdin Trust Company.)

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Paws on Parade “Unleash The Paw-tential”

Schedule of events

8:00 a.m.Registration on the Bangor Waterfront (between Sea Dog Brewing Company and Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion). At this time, teams and individuals turn in their registration forms and fundraising totals. Participants pick up their T-shirts and swag-bags.

9:20 a.m. - Blessing of the Animals – With Rev. Marguerite “Mother Rita” Steadman, of St. John’s Episcopal Church. This will occur at the starting line, located near the entrance to Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion.

9:30 a.m. – The walk begins. A one-and-a-half mile walk around the waterfront before returning to the original site.

10:30 a.m. noon - Contests, games, runway show, vendors and food. Prizes will be awarded for the biggest dog, the smallest dog, the best-dressed dog, and oldest BHS alumni, among other categories. The personal-ad style runway show will also take place at this time. 

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Our rescue stories

Mike Dow

On a personal note, I have been adopting pets from Bangor Humane Society for about 20 years.

My first BHS adoptee was a Maine coon cat, who arrived with the name Suzy. Suzy was 11-years old when she was surrendered to Bangor Humane Society by a woman who claimed that she did not want to deal with an “old cat.”

At the time, I was a member of the Bangor Humane Society board of directors and I knew that Suzy’s story was not unique. Lots of older dogs and cats find themselves surrendered to a shelter during their golden years. As I was to discover, Suzy’s life was barely half over.

Suzy never made it to the adoption floor. I had asked BHS to keep me in mind when the next elderly cat was surrendered; I soon received a call from then-executive director Bev Uhlenhake. I immediately set out for Mt. Hope Ave. in Bangor to meet my new roommate. 

The comment card left behind by Suzy’s former person read: “Suzy. Age 11. Likes dogs.” 

She adored my golden retriever Mayberry. The pair became inseparable. They would eat together, sleep together and would race each other to be the first to meet me at the door when I would arrive home for work.

If Suzy wasn’t napping on or next to Mayberry, she would sneak some winks in my bedroom closet, usually on a pile of old radio station T-shirts, but would always appear at my side when I said her name or uttered her favorite words: “Food time!”

After Mayberry passed away in April 2008 at age 14, Suzy hung in there, but I knew that she missed her best friend dearly.

Near the end of that year, she began exhibiting signs of kidney trouble. We started a series of weekly saline injections under her skin. This seemed to make her feel better, but I knew it was only a temporary solution.

Suzy was 20 years old when I took her to Veazie Vet Clinic for the final time. Vet-tech Darrell Kent (Suzy’s favorite medical attendant) was with me, as was Dr. Julie Keene, who had been working with us throughout Suzy’s bout of kidney trouble.

The three of us must have been a sight – sitting on the floor with Suzy and crying our eyes out. I prayed for a last-minute reprieve – maybe something we hadn’t thought of yet - but I knew from the look in Suzy’s eyes that she was trying to tell us something: My ride is here.

Thanks to the people at Bangor Humane Society, I have been introduced to a series of pets that have literally changed my life. That “old cat” had another nine wonderful years left in her. She only needed to find the right home in which to live them.

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Allen Adams

When I got married, one of the first things that my wife Sheridan and I agreed on was that we wanted to get a dog. We weren’t sure just how we were going to make that happen, but we figured that when the right one popped up, we’d know.

How right we were.

Our sweet girl didn’t come through the doors of the Bangor Humane Society. She came to us from hundreds and hundreds of miles away, from way down south in Georgia.

It was as simple as a picture. We had been connected with a rescue organization online for a while when we first saw the photo. A sweet-faced dog with sparkly eyes and a wide grin, possessed of big paws and even bigger ears. It was obvious from the first moment we saw that picture: this was our dog.

What followed was an involved process of long conversations with the folks who were fostering our girl, of checked references and anxious waits. But finally, we got word – she was going to be heading our way.

Full of anxiety, we headed down south. We were to meet the transport in the parking lot of the Scarborough Wal-Mart at 1 a.m. That was where we would get the chance to officially start our life with our new friend. And she arrived, safe and sound and sweet. We drove her home – I rode in the back to keep her from being scared and wound up sleeping on the floor next to her crate that night so she’d feel safe.

It was love. Instant love.

Stella is one of the biggest joys in our lives. Our home is her home. She is a member of the family, zooming around every gathering with the same happy abandon that our nieces and nephews display. She curls up at the foot of our bed at night and snuggles up to give us kisses in the morning.

Stella will turn five in December. She’s been part of our family for all but a few months of that time, completing it in the perfect way. She is our weird, goofy girl. She loves pumpkin and pizza bones. She will stop at nothing to remove a squeaker from a stuffed toy, but will also continue to love said toy long after it is little more than a scrap of fabric.

(And for those unaware, she’s also shockingly good at picking football games. We’re in our fifth year of the feature we call Kibbles and Picks; she’s beaten me three out of the previous four. Check out my humiliation weekly on our website.)

While Stella didn’t come to us via the Bangor Humane Society, she was rescued and given a second chance. That’s what the folks at BHS do – they give these animals second chances. I am forever grateful for the work that these people do; they are bringing together animals with love to give and the people who most need to receive that love.

So thank you. I thank you. And Stella thanks you.

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The Focus Group goes to the dogs

In what has gradually become a tradition in its own right, the Focus Group improvisational comedy troupe is going to the dogs to help raise money for the Bangor Humane Society. This year marks the fourth year of the event.

Each year, on the night before Paws on Parade, the Focus Group descends on the Next Generation Theatre – located at 39 Center Street in Brewer – to offer up their improvised comedic stylings for a good cause. This means that this year’s show is on Sept. 29. The festivities begin at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10, with all money raised handed over the Humane Society.

(This is the part where I do the whole full disclosure thing and tell you that I am a founding member of the Focus Group and will be participating in this show - and almost certainly making a fool of myself – all in the name of raising some cash to help BHS.)

My personal story has been recounted already, but most of the members of the group have had their lives touched by a rescue pet. This is a cause that is near and dear to all of our hearts; we’re grateful that we’ve been able to team up with the wonderful folks of the Bangor Humane Society and play some small part in this amazing event.

Please note that things have been known to get a little … colorful. Our show is probably inappropriate for younger viewers, though older high school kids will be fine.

So join us on Friday. We’ll be doing what we do. And you? You get to laugh AND feel good about yourself. Frankly, it’s nuts that you’re even considering not coming. Why not come over and watch us attempt to unleash some paw-tential of our own?

 

Last modified on Wednesday, 27 September 2017 10:54

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