BANGOR, Maine — Blustery weather and low temperatures failed to keep the 17th annual Paws on Parade event from attracting a record number of participants — human and canine alike.
“The dogs have a hard time dialing the phone, so we have to go by the people count, but we had 300 preregistrations, and we have about 350 people with their dogs here today, which is more than double last year,” said Susan Bell, executive director of the Bangor Humane Society.
The annual event — a short walk from the Bangor Waterfront downtown and back — is the humane society’s largest and most visible event, which makes Saturday’s public response and support all the more gratifying for Bell.
“A little over five years ago, we raised $16,000, and we’re over $40,000 today,” said Bell, who is in her third year as executive director. “Not only do we raise money and awareness, we notice our donations and adoptions go up noticeably after this event.”
Dogs of all breeds, sizes, shapes and colors were on hand at the Bangor Waterfront park, from those bigger than many of the people on hand to those small enough to fit into a large pocket.
“There are so many different sizes and kinds of breeds, and even someone like me who sees dogs every day is amazed to see all this variety,” said Bell, one of 10 full-time humane society employees.
The Bangor Humane Society also has 10 part-time employees and many volunteers.
The event has grown from a handful of owners and dogs to hundreds along with about 15 vendors and nonprofit organizations that set up booths and tents to promote their causes or sell and publicize their products and services.
Even the owners came in all shapes, sizes and “colors.”
Richard Roos of Naples came to the waterfront with his girlfriend, Dianne Payzant of Exeter, along with their two dogs — all dressed in pirate costumes.
“I think this is great! It’s kind of cold, but it’s nice to see so many people who are pet lovers,” Roos said. “Dianne bought this stuff last year online and said we might as well put them to use at the dog walk, so here we are.”
The retired commercial fisherman whose last job was on board the Andrea Gale of “The Perfect Storm” fame now plays the stock market, but has always been a pirate enthusiast.
“I like the idea of gold and pirates, female pirates in particular,” he said winking. “And the way the stock market’s going, I need to find some gold.”
Many of Saturday’s participants have more than a passing interest in Paws on Parade. It has become THE annual event for Dr. Mark Hanks, a veterinarian who runs Kindred Spirits clinic in Orrington.
“The first year, I gave a day of spaying and neutering for every $1,000 we raised,” said Hanks, who first took part three years ago. “In the process, I watched the people at Bangor Humane Society and how hard they worked taking care of the animals and I’ve really become a fan.”
A very philanthropic fan.
After personally raising $5,000 last year, Hanks doubled that figure this year.
“I have NO idea what we’re going to do next year,” he said with a laugh. “We have a very small practice, but we have some very passionate clients. We had 73 people sign up to walk, and hundreds gave money, and many of them aren’t even clients.”
Approximately 30 volunteers turned out to help run the event Saturday. Bangor’s Krystin Noyes, who brought her 8-month-old, long-haired Chihuahua mix named Kensington, has been volunteering at the shelter since March.
“We’ve adopted four cats from the shelter too,” she said. “I think it’s really fun to see all the other dogs, and it’s a great way to socialize your pets. And it’s a great way to celebrate having pets.”