By Sarah Sharp
Picture this, and try not to smile: A pack of dogs (you can be certain of some long, drooling, hanging tongues in the mix) take turns lapping up sweet revenge from the faces of animal control officers – best kisser wins a treat.
The spectacle is one of biggest crowd-pleasers at the Whatcom Humane Society’s Dog Days of Summer Festival and 5K Fun Run. The 15th annual event will take place on Sunday, August 21, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Lake Padden.
“It’s an event where you can’t help but smile,” said executive director Laura Clark.
The run/walk around Lake Padden raises money for the Whatcom Humane Society, a nonprofit that accepts any animal regardless of its medical condition. Last year, the organization housed more than 4,000 domestic and wild animals.
Runners can register online now or on the day of the race. Top runners in the men’s, women’s, children’s and over-60 brackets will take home awards and treats for their running partners, though participants are not required to run the race with a dog.
The festival is free and open to the public. If your dog’s a little shy about smooching strangers, the festival also includes events that will bring out their digging, swimming, fetching, barking, wagging, eating, dancing and artistic sides.
It’s perhaps the one time a year your dog will be rewarded for ordinarily discouraged behavior. Dogs can howl to their heart’s content, dig on a giant hound hill, dunk for tennis balls in a kiddie-sized pool and create art by dipping their paws in paint, perhaps revealing an inner “Paw-Casso.”
Canines can also flaunt their skills in best tail/body wag, peanut butter eating and “My Dog Ate What?” contests; the latter allows your dog to show off an all-encompassing love for food, from biscuits to kale.
But be forewarned: the competition has been stiff in previous years. “Some retrievers will eat just about anything,” said Dana Browne, the special events coordinator.
Because not all dogs possess the sun-kissed mane of a Golden Retriever, there will also be a “So Ugly You’re Cute” contest to recognize less conventional standards of beauty.
Several events test the chemistry between dog and owner. A doggie disco dance party will teach owners how to move along with their dogs, and Dewey Griffin Subaru’s Barked Slalom Challenge presents the opportunity to tackle an obstacle course together.
Participants can bring home a memento from the event by making a stop at the animal caricaturist booth – back by popular demand. The caricaturist can sketch your pet in minutes on paper or a customized T-shirt.
“He can draw amazing pictures at an insane speed,” Browne said.
More than 40 animal-friendly vendors, including animal rescue groups, pet supply businesses, animal photographers, animal communicators, animal jewelry and art sellers, groomers and dog trainers, will showcase their products and services at the festival. Children can fill up “Go-Dog-Go” passports with stamps from each vendor for an opportunity to win a prize and treat for their dog at the check-in booth.
Canines and accompanying humans in attendance are encouraged to wear superhero costumes. Visit the Whatcom Humane Society’s website for more information about the event, or to sign up for the race.