Pet festival pleases crowd, organizers

It was a dog day afternoon at the La Jolla Pet Parade & Festival on Sunday as every kind of dog — and every kind of master — showed up for the second annual event.

The surf-themed animal love-in was a fundraiser for the Spay Neuter Action Project (SNAP), a nonprofit animal welfare group. The fest featured a pet parade around the Village, a festival with vendor booths, an adoption fair and numerous pet-judging contests. Organizers said attendance was nearly double that of the inaugural event.

The top priority for the day was having fun, something successfully accomplished by participants and observers alike. Pets dressed as hula girls and surfer dudes wearing shorts and skirts seemed to be enjoying themselves too, lapping up all the attention while munching doggie treats.

Parade grand marshal Scott Chandler, a big-wave surfer, said, “They asked me to be grand marshal because of the surf theme.” He brought along his diminutive scrappy surf dog Zoe, who accompanied him as he led the pet parade.

Chandler, Zoe and his three daughters all compete annually in the Loew’s Coronado Resort Surf Dog Competition in Imperial Beach. He added the competition this year — held Saturday in rough, windy conditions — was dogged.

“It was definitely extreme dog surfing, a lot of dog wipeout, a lot of dog paddling.”

“This is a lot more impressive than we were thinking it was going to be,” said La Jollan Melissa Studor, who came to the event with husband Chris and 7-year-old Great Dane Darwin who really stood out in the crowd.

Coast Pet Distributors was one of the many vendors with booths at the pet fair. The Carlsbad company carries the Orijen pet food line, specially formulated to match the diet of dogs and cats in the wild, which it markets to pet boutiques regionally including Muttropolis in La Jolla and Solana Beach.

Carla McEwen, a Mount Soledad resident and a Brazilian native, cradled her two Pomeranians, Tevet and Av, in her arms. She entered them in a couple different pet competitions, “most unique” and “pet most resembling its owner.”

“I think it’s very well organized,” she said of the pet event she was attending for the first time. “It’s very fun.”

La Jollan Danielle Nastro, owner of The Local Boutique whose dog Tony was saddled like a horse carrying a cowboy sock puppet, said the event was “awesome. I love it. It actually is bigger than I thought it was going to be.”

Richard and Mike of La Costa were mascots dressed as dalmations. They said they are event planners who have helped SNAP plan fundraisers. They talked about the seriousness behind the lighthearted occasion.

“We’re supposed to show people how important it is to spay and neuter their pets so that they can be free and out and running and not in kennels,” Richard said. “Our mission is empty kennels.”

Is the message getting across? “We think it is, the message of loving the pets and adopting the pets are coming across to the people,” said Mike. “That’s the whole purpose of the parade.”

“It’s important to care for animals — people take them for granted,” added Richard.

“We’re just the pet squad, the cheerleaders,” Mike said.

Nancy Warwick, who helped come up with the idea for the pet parade and festival last year, acknowledged the event is taking on a life and popularity all its own.

“We’ll have to try and look at our space next year to see if we can get a larger street closure,” she said.

Warwick estimated the number of dogs in attendance topped 200.

Candy Schumann, SNAP volunteer executive director, one of the event organizers, said they’re looking forward to next year.

“We are already thinking up themes for next year: La Jolla Goes Wild (jungle), The Circus Comes to Town, Follow the Yellow Brick Road, etc.,” she said.