Pooch Parade

AMSTERDAM – Shuttleworth Park, home of the Mohawks baseball team, was full of hot dogs on Saturday, but not the kind served with ketchup or mustard.

“He doesn’t like the heat,” said Bob Dunn, a resident of Amsterdam, of his 4-year-old Chihuahua, Pepe, who was perched on his shoulder like a parrot. “When it gets this hot, he likes to swim in a pool, like any dog, but I’ll tell you what – he handles the heat a lot better than the upstate New York cold. In the winter time, we have to put him in a parka and boots.”

Dunn and Pepe, a shelter dog that he rescued, participated in the Montgomery County SPCA’s 11th anniversary Dog Walk-A-Thon on Saturday, a fundraiser to help build an expanded SPCA shelter in Montgomery County, so that fewer stray dogs will ever have to brave those cold winters unprotected.

Gina Kline, coordinator of the event, said the walkathon – the shelter’s largest fundraiser – raised about $12,000 to $15,000 Saturday, down slightly from prior years, a decline she attributed in part to holding the event in June this year rather than September as in past years.

“I think it threw some of the vendors off a little bit,” she said.

Despite the 90-degree heat, a good time appeared to be had by most of the participants in the walkathon, both canine and human. Small plastic kiddy pools were provided for the dogs to take a swim, and vendors sold food as well as jewelry, dog leashes and T-shirts. Entertainment included a reptile display from Fort Johnson-based exotic animal shelter Beyond Human Inc.

Kline said about 50 people had registered to walk their dogs, some providing their own donations to the effort, others getting pledges from people supporting the fundraiser. She said there also were about 10 to 15 “virtual walkers,” people who registered for the event but didn’t actually come to walk to their dogs.

The walker who raised the most money was Maureen Rossi, who is also the SPCA’s treasurer, who brought in $1,200, despite her not owning a dog of her own. Rossi was awarded a Barnes & Noble Nook e-reader for her efforts.

“I’m not home enough to have a dog, so I help out this way,” she said. “I do have three cats.”

Jan Zumbolo, board president for the Montgomery County SPCA, said the planned $2 million 12,000-square-foot new shelter with have separate kennels for dogs and cats and will expand the capacity from 18 to 40 dogs and from 30 to 50 cats. The new shelter also will be able to house rabbits, ferrets and possibly birds. Zumbolo said the expanded size will enable the SPCA to have an in-house veterinarian and make the organization competitive in applications for grants that can pay for low-cost spay and neuter clinics.

“The dog walkathons have been our biggest annual fundraisers,” Zumbolo said. “Over the past 11 years, we’ve raised over $300,000, and a lot of that has come from the walkathons.”

Due to the heat, a planned “dog tricks” show was canceled, but a “shelter dog show” was conducted, with six shelter dogs showcased to the public for possible adoption.

“When a dog is in a shelter cage, they can just be very loud and obnoxious because they are constrained,” Rossi said. “They don’t act like they do when they are out in public, which is where you can show that they are really excellent dogs.”