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Bangor Humane Society’s Paws on Parade goes to Husson University with ‘Woofstock!’

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BANGOR – The 28th annual edition of Paws on Parade, Bangor Humane Society’s largest annual fundraiser, promises to be extra groovy this year in both theme and venue. The fun dog walk, which traditionally draws hundreds of supporters and their beloved pets, will be held at a new location, Husson University, 1 College Circle in Bangor, on Saturday, October 2, beginning at 9:00 a.m.

Paws on Parade’s primary sponsors are Cross Insurance, Darling’s VW and Veazie Veterinary Clinic.

This year’s event will be the first in-person edition of Paws on Parade since 2019. Because of the pandemic, a virtual version was held last year. To represent the community coming together once again under a common cause, Bangor Humane Society has selected “Woofstock” as a theme, a reference to the iconic Woodstock music festival.

You Can Make It If You Try

Bangor Humane Society’s Director of Development, Kathryn Ravenscraft, says the organization is excited about Paws on Parade’s new venue and theme. For a number of years, the event has been held on the Bangor Waterfront and featured a walking route along Main Street in Downtown Bangor. Due to the city’s reluctance to issue an event permit due to uncertainty related to the pandemic, Bangor Humane Society sought a new venue and found it in Husson University.

“We couldn’t be more excited to partner with Husson University and breathe new life into Paws on Parade,” Ravenscraft said. “When you consider everything that’s happened over the last year, it’s so great to be back in person and it will be fun to explore a new venue.”

The walk itself will be a little shorter this year, just under one mile around the circle at Husson University, according to Ravenscraft.

Registration is scheduled to begin at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, October 2. When participants arrive, they will have the opportunity to check out a number of on-site vendors, many of them offering pet-related items.

Following some brief welcome speeches and a blessing from Rev. Rebecca Liberty from St. John’s Episcopal Church in Bangor, the walk itself is scheduled to begin shortly before 11:00 a.m., according to Ravenscraft.

After participants and their dogs walk around the circle at Husson University, the shelter dog runway show will begin at approximately 11:20 a.m. This event gives a chance for many of the dogs currently awaiting adoption from Bangor Humane Society to show off for the crowd. Participants will learn details about each dog’s history and personality and will have an opportunity to ask questions about the animal if they are interested in adoption.

Everyone who participates in Paws on Parade is encouraged to enter their dog in one or more of the contests, which will also follow the walk. Prizes will be awarded in a variety of categories, including best “Woofstock” themed costume, best freestyle costume, oldest present Bangor Humane Society alumni dog, youngest present Bangor Humane Society alumni dog, longest tail, longest ears and best “stupid pet trick,” a nod to the classic David Letterman segment.

Reason to Believe

Since the “Woofstock” theme was announced on social media, Ravenscraft says the buzz has been very positive.

“The theme is one of my favorite aspects of this year’s walk and we encourage everyone to get creative in dressing up themselves and their dogs in some groovy throwback costumes,” Ravenscraft said.

Ravenscraft says the theme was selected because of what the original 1969 Woodstock music festival represented.

“It was about a lot of people coming together and experiencing unity around the art of music,” she said. “Considering what we’ve all been through with the pandemic and the quarantine, ‘Woofstock’ seemed like a great fit to represent reunification in our own community, so for us, it represents peace, love, and rescue.”

Registered participants at Paws on Parade will receive a colorful tie-dyed event shirt at check-in time in addition to a swag-bag full of goodies from a number of participating Paws on Parade sponsors.

In addition to the aforementioned primary sponsors, Paws on Parade “Woofstock” sponsors include Changing Seasons Federal Credit Union in Hampden, Maine Masonic Lodge 83 – St. Andrew’s Lodge, Eaton Peabody, Bowman Constructors, Katahdin Trust, Wallace Tent, Blueberry Broadcasting, Green Acres Kennel/Force Free Pets, Bell’s Furry Friends Photography, Harvest Moon Deli, Bangor Savings Bank, Seadog Brewing Company, Leighton & Longtin LLP CPAs, Versant Power, Brookings Smith, Loyal Biscuit Company, Skowhegan Savings, Bangor Savings Bank, First National Bank, Roof Systems of Maine, Whitten’s 2-Way, BerryDunn, TMATT Tax and Financial, MelBee Photography, Brandwine Graphics, LLC and TBA Inc of Bangor.

Each of those sponsors contributes to Paws on Parade with either a financial or in-kind donation. Ravenscraft is hopeful that those sponsor donations, combined with funds collected by each walk participant, will meet or exceed this year’s goal of raising $75,000 to help Bangor Humane Society continue their mission of providing quality care for homeless animals. Ravenscraft says it’s important for donors to know how their money is being utilized to better the lives of animals.

With a Little Help From My Friends

There is a common misconception that animal shelters receive federal or state funding to continue operating. Bangor Humane Society is not related to, nor do they receive funding from, Humane Society of the United States or the ASPCA. The lion’s share of the operating cost for Bangor Humane Society is met through public and private donations, fundraisers and adoption and surrender fees. So what is the money used for?

The funds go directly to care for the animals while they wait to be adopted. A lot of the money raised by Paws on Parade goes not just toward operating expenses but to some of our extraordinary cases,” Ravenscraft said.

Bangor Humane Society can now help those extraordinary cases, the animals with serious medical or behavioral challenges, thanks to several innovative changes at the facility regarding policy. It wasn’t that long ago when the most serious special cases didn’t get a second chance.

Several years ago, Bangor Humane Society made a policy change that contributed to a dramatic drop in the number of animals they see each year. Every animal that is adopted from Bangor Humane Society is spayed or neutered before going to their new home. That act alone has made a significant impact in helping control the area’s animal population.

Back in the mid-to-late 1990s, approximately 10,000 animals came through the doors at Bangor Humane Society each year.

At the time current Executive Director Suzan Prendergast assumed that position in 2008, the live release rate was about 50%, according to Ravenscraft. That means only about half of the animals ultimately saw adoption.

At that time, a no-euthanasia policy was implemented at Bangor Humane Society. Before that, many animals with serious medical or behavioral challenges didn’t see a second chance because the facility’s other challenges, including available space to house them, were too great to concentrate the time and expense needed to hopefully correct those issues.

In 2016, euthanasia rates had been reduced to the point where Bangor Humane Society completely abandoned use of their incinerator room.

I Shall Be Released

In 2020, thanks in no small part to Bangor Humane Society’s spay and neuter policy, the number of intake animals was just over 2,000.

Bangor Humane Society’s current live release rate is 99%, according to Ravenscraft. That number has ticked up steadily over the last 13 years and it’s an almost unheard-of figure for an animal shelter. For comparison’s sake, according to the ASPCA, the average live release rate at animal shelters in America currently stands at 50%.

“We concentrate our resources to make sure every animal has more than just a chance to find a home, it means they have an honest shot at a second chance,” Ravenscraft said. “We do not send broken or sick animals out into the community. We make sure they are at, or close to, 100% before we let them become adopted. It’s amazing how quickly those extraordinary medical expenses can add up, but it’s worth every penny.”

Freedom

I asked Ravenscraft to give an example of the special cases that required extra time and expense to help with a medical or behavioral challenge. They may need extra time and conditioning to help overcome fear or they may be an animal with orthopedic issues or another treatable condition.

She shared two, beginning with the story of a female American Pit Bull Terrier named Princess.

Princess was with us for just over one year,” she said. “She was a little scared of people but she wasn’t aggressive. She just needed some time with people who understood and she had that here. We were able to work with her to ease those fears. She also needed a home where she would be the only dog, which isn’t unusual. It was really exciting when she finally went home.”

Ravenscraft shared an example of how Bangor Humane Society meets the needs of an animal with a medical challenge.

“Last year, a pair of cats named Sunny and Floof were surrendered by a woman whose landlord told her she needed to find a home for at least two of her pets,” Ravenscraft said.

“Floof looked exactly like how you’d think a cat with that name would appear, he was the cutest fur-ball. Sonny had a deformed rear leg, completely twisted up and unusable. He got around OK but that leg presented some challenges for sure. The decision was made to amputate Sunny’s leg, which turned out to be exactly what he needed. They ended up being adopted together by Aubuchon Hardware in Brewer where they’ve become in-store mascots. Look around when you’re there and you’ll find a floofy furball and a tripod of love.”

Bangor Humane Society was recently renovated and expanded to make the facility more efficient and safer for its temporary visitors. The new layout and design is very noticeable upon entering the building. Kennel and care areas were reconfigured and expanded to allow for more light and ventilation.

The improvements reduced the potential for disease transmission, and in some cases, found an all-together new purpose for the original space. Where there was once an incinerator room, there is now a re-imagined intake room used for transport dogs, many of which are puppies.

Ravenscraft says these dramatic improvements have been made possible, in part, by events like Paws on Parade and by the organization’s many volunteers who assist in multiple ways.

Amazing Journey

“Becoming involved with Bangor Humane Society is one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever done in my life,” said Russ Maynard, owner of Blackstream Custom Cycle, a full-service custom motorcycle shop located in Hermon.

Maynard currently serves on Bangor Humane Society’s Board of Directors and is a member of the Paws on Parade planning committee. Maynard’s daughter, Taylor, also works at Bangor Humane Society, in addition to serving on the board.

Maynard became involved with Bangor Humane Society in 2011, when he co-hosted a charity motorcycle ride with his friend John Ramirez, former owner of Four Points Barbecue in Winterport.

“The first year we did it, we raised $1,200 for Bangor Humane Society. When we did it again the next year, that figure went up to $2,000,” Maynard said.

That’s when former Bangor Humane Society Director of Development, Stacey Coventry, talked Maynard into joining the fun of Paws on Parade.

“The first year I became involved, I set a goal of raising $5,000,” Maynard said. “Some people told me that was impossible. I told them they didn’t know who they were dealing with. I agreed that if our team could raise at least $5,000, I would walk the walk in a pink tutu and that’s exactly what happened.”

That pink tutu also ended up being worn by Dr. Mark Hanks of Kindred Spirits Veterinary Clinic, whose Paws on Parade team had been in possession of the coveted event trophy handed off each year to the top-earning team.

Both the Kindred Spirits and Blackstream Custom Misfits teams issued a friendly challenge to out-fundraise each other which resulted in an ongoing competition in which the animals ultimately win.

You’ve Made Me So Very Happy

Kara Swartz’s introduction to Bangor Humane Society occurred when she adopted her first dog from the facility as a college student. A few years later, she began fostering animals for them, providing a safe, temporary place for animals that need extra time and attention outside of a kennel environment before being adopted into a home.

Swartz has been raising money for Paws on Parade for the last seven years, with fundraising assistance from her own animals which have become global internet stars through their pages Ten Shakes of Grace.

“That name combines the names of three of my pets,” Swartz said. “Tennyson and Harper Grace are German Shepherds, and Shakespeare was my bird and he’s sadly no longer with us.”

Swartz shared a video online that soon went viral showing Tennyson carrying one of the foster kittens upstairs to go to sleep.

“It kind of launched their social media presence and also resulted in an interview segment for a Japanese TV station,” Swartz said.

Swartz says her pets have fans based around the globe that regularly check the Ten Shakes of Grace page on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube. Many of them correspond with Swartz.

“The ones I like most are the people who write saying they come to the page to smile because things are tough, or they recently lost a pet and they say it makes them feel better when they see the videos,” Swartz said.

Swartz currently has four dogs, including her most recent arrival, an 11-week-old black German Shepherd named Revere.

Swartz says she looks forward to being part of Paws on Parade each year. She says she sometimes gets a little creative with fundraising ideas and offers an example:

“I posted a picture one very hot summer afternoon when I was working,” she said. “I wrote that if we could raise $500 for Paws on Parade within an hour, I would quit working for the day to take the dogs swimming. It only took 20 minutes thanks to the amazing community that has grown over the years around Ten Shakes of Grace.”

Swartz said she hopes to see a lot of new participants this year at Paws on Parade, adding that every donation counts, no matter how small.

“Some of us may raise more money than others but that only means we have the time or the means to do it,” she said. “We want everyone to join in.”

To register, or to receive more information about Paws on Parade, visit www.BangorHumane.org . Click the Paws on Parade tab under Programs and Events.

(Note: I volunteer for Bangor Humane Society by serving on the Paws on Parade planning committee with the individuals interviewed for this story and six additional volunteers. I also provide announcements and background music during the event. I’ve been attending Paws on Parade events since 1997 and have been volunteering for (and adopting animals from) Bangor Humane Society ever since. They constantly seek to improve the lives of animals and have my complete support.)

Last modified on Wednesday, 29 September 2021 12:34

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