With kids back at school and busy schedules dictating our daily lives, our four-legged friends can start to feel like second fiddle in the family hierarchy.
Fortunately for them, fall in Maine also signals the arrival of many dog-friendly festivities that welcome Rover to join in the fun and celebrate the special role they play in our families.
Dog-centric events invite social canines to wag with the locals, learn new skills and show off their unique personalities.
For their people, it’s a chance to have a laugh with like-minded folks as they watch the best-planned events go to the dogs. Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland successfully launched its new Ales for Tails festival last October. Scallywag hounds quickly transformed the scheduled human-centric activities, including corn hole, ladder ball and horseshoes, into a hilarious free-fur-all. Onlookers chuckled as playful pups hijacked beanbags and turned them into chew toys.
For people without pups, a dog event can become a first date with a rescue and sometimes the beginning of a lifelong love. At last September’s Strut Your Mutt event, Animal Welfare Society’s puppy brothers, Walberg and MacIntyre, had a fan fall in love with their online rescue puppy profiles. Their lady admirer arrived at the crack of dawn to ensure she was first in line for a doggy date. It was love at first site and she adopted them both.
Here are six dog-centric Maine events where you can join in the fall fun with your dog, “paw it forward” for a furry good cause and live in the moment because dog is good.
7th Annual Barks in the Park
This fundraiser for an aspiring Gardiner Dog Park fund is where social pups can let down their fur and play. Local holistic therapist, Kim Nixon, will lead a pre-event Yoga With Your Dog boardwalk fundraising session for the Kennebec Valley Humane Society to get owners and dogs limbered up for a day of everything dog.
Spectator dogs can watch the performing Flyball Maineiacs and then follow suit on the “Can Your Dog Fly” practice course. Dog gurus and animal communicators will be on hand to give guidance and help folks channel their inner woof. Dogs can ham it up and win prizes in canine contests. Raffle tickets and merchandise will give attendees a chance to contribute to the event’s fundraising goal.
Fundraiser for future Gardiner dog park, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 10, Gardiner Waterfront Park. Free. gardinermainstreet.org/events/barksinthepark/
22nd Annual Strut Your Mutt
The two-mile coastal parade of happy tails kicks off at Kennebunk’s Mother’s Beach. Registered mutts can strut along in complimentary bandannas that match their owners’ T-shirts. Participating pups get decorated with a medal when their paws cross the finish line. Beach-side festivities frame the event and are a celebration of all things dog with rescue pups, canine contests for “Top Dog” title-seekers, wagging tunes and a new pet product pavilion.
The longstanding Strut Your Mutt coastal event is the Animal Welfare Society’s largest fundraising event of the year. Kennebunk Savings serves as the underwriting sponsor, and last year’s event raised $70,000 for vital medical care for rescued pets so they can find new forever homes.
Fundraiser for Animal Welfare Society, Sunday, Sept. 11, Mother’s Beach, Kennebunk. Festivities begins at 9 a.m., walk starts at 11 a.m. $24, $40 for a pair, $80 for a team of four to nine, $200 for a squad of 10 to 20. animalwelfaresociety.org/news-events/strut-your-mutt/
The Whisker Walk, held in Rockland’s Harbor Park, is a fun excuse for a midcoast adventure with your furry best friend. Depending on your energy level, you can start the day with a 5K run with your Rover or do a wagging one-mile stroll along the Rockland Harbor Boardwalk. Enthusiasts can rally up friends and form a fundraising pack. The picturesque coastal park is transformed for the festive occasion with an agility course, tunes, munchies, vendors and a doggy day spa to pamper your pooch.
This fundraiser is hosted by the Pope Memorial Humane Society of Knox County and helps raise money to assist with all the needs of homeless animals in their care.
Fundraiser for Pope Memorial Humane Society of Knox County, Saturday, Sept. 17, Harbor Park, Rockland. Registration 8 a.m., 5K run and one-mile walk 9 a.m.. festivities continue until 2 p.m. $20, $10 for kids 15 and under. humanesocietyofknoxcounty.org/whisker-walk/
4th Annual Dash for Dogs 5K
Competitors can hang onto the leash as their canine companions guide them along the Androscoggin Riverside Trail or opt for a more leisurely stroll along the course. After the race, there’s an awards ceremony with prizes from Lamey Wellehan for top finishers in several human age brackets and for first- and second-place dogs. After the official awards, all participating runners and walkers have their chance to bring home prizes.
The Dash for Dogs is the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society’s annual race for rescues with the registration fee going directly towards the care of the 4,000 animals that need shelter and support each year.
Fundraiser for Greater Androscoggin Humane Society, Saturday, Sept. 18, 5K run begins at 9 a.m. (timed for runners only, 55 Strawberry Ave., Lewiston. $25 runsignup.com/Race/ME/Lewiston/DashforDogs5K
Ales For Tails
Last year, the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland, Idexx Laboratories and Thompson’s Point brewed up this fall fundraising event that pairs wagging tails with local ales. Over 500 people and their dogs lapped up the canine-centric festival vibes. The grassy peninsula at the Thompson’s Point outdoor venue on the banks of the Fore River will be buzzing with local brew-masters, live music, food trucks and pet-centric vendors and services. Lawn games will be lined up for two- and four-legged friends but the rules will probably go to the dogs.
All event proceeds help the Animal Refuge League continue its mission to find new homes for over 4.000 furry friends each year. The ARL’s new 25,000-square-foot state of the art facility is scheduled to open this fall and will honor the legacy of Gov. Baxter and his belief that humanity has an obligation to provide kindness and compassion to all animals.
Fundraiser for the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland, 2-5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8, Thompson’s Point, Portland. $25 in advance, $30 day of event. www.arlgp.org
The Bayside 5K9
People and dogs can keep their costumes at the ready after Halloween and sign up for “Portland’s most PUPular race” where running in goofy get-up is encouraged. This dog-friendly fall race through the Bayside neighborhood and adjoining trails is jointly hosted by Portland Trails, the Bayside Neighborhood Association and Planet Dog with all proceeds supporting the mission of Portland Trails.
Competitive pups leashed to their owners will rocket over the start line like Olympians out of the starting block and go for gold. Laid-back participants can do a leisurely lope along the Bayside course and pose for fall peepers snapping photos of two- and four-legged teams sporting butterfly wings, Viking hats, superhero capes and hot dog outfits. The post-race party with pup snacks and food-truck fare takes place at Planet Dog’s flagship store on Marginal Way with awards given for top the three finishers by gender and to the best-dressed dogs. All runners get goodie bags filled with treats for humans and dogs.
5K race to benefit Portland Trails, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m, Sunday, Nov. 6, Marginal Way, adjacent to Planet Dog. trails.org/bayside-5k-9
Contributing writer Deb Collins has a local Maine dog-centric business www.happymestuff.com, where she blogs about everything dog and has her own range of Maine-inspired Vacationland dog gear. Deb loves exploring Maine with her happy-go-wiggly Labrador retriever, Ted.