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Weekend Activities in Support of Rescue Dogs

July 18, 2004 – The Rotary Club of St. Croix is holding a weekend of fundraising events to fund the St. Croix K-9 Search and Rescue team. "The goal is to raise enough money to purchase needed equipment and pay for the upkeep of these life-saving dogs," said Rotarian Liz Goggins. This month, three St. Croix K-9 teams completed intensive training with search and rescue dog handler, Harry Oaks, Jr., and his dog Valerie.
The dogs use their sense of smell to track missing people and articles through water, over pavement and over soil, said Natalie Moorhead, a search and rescue assistant instructor.
On Saturday evening, the Lost Dog pub in Frederiksted, one of the events sponsors, hosted an evening of entertainment, a special menu and raffle drawings. Residents could sign their dog up to participate in the Paws for Paradise, a dog extravaganza at the Agricultural Fair grounds beginning at 10 a.m. on Sunday. The doggie day will feature dog contests, stunts, search and rescue demonstrations and a dog graduation ceremony.
"The dogs are rescued from the pound," said Moorhead, as she petted Bishop, a rescue dog. Moorhead said any dog could be trained for search and rescue, "They don't have to have a pedigree – just be trained with a lot of love."
Bishop wore an orange harness with the word rescue printed in the side. "That's his uniform," Moorhead explained. Rescue dogs have all the rights of service dogs, including Seeing Eye dogs, and are allowed in restaurants and businesses, as long as they are wearing their uniform. "They can even travel in the passenger section of a plane," said Moorhead.
Goggins said the Paws for Paradise Dog Extravaganza would be fun for everyone. The fun starts with a children's parade for kids 13 and under. Other activities include a look alike contest, a cool dog contest, stupid pet tricks, Frisbee catch, coconut retrieval, best "rescued" dog and a children's art contest.
Veterinarians will be available to check dogs to see if she is overweight and to answer owners' questions. Goggins said one of the other things they are pursuing is microchipping dogs to make it easier to find lost dogs. The chip is inserted by syringe into the dog, and "it doesn’t hurt the dog a bit," she said. Veterinarians, the department of agriculture and the animal shelter do microchipping. The cost is about $40, "but you can get it done at the fairgrounds on Sunday for $20," Goggins said.
Goggins is quick to remind pet owners to bring a water bowl and plastic bags to clean up after their dog. The dog must be comfortable if it is being dressed in costume. There is a $2 fee to enter the contests and admission to the fair grounds is $1, children under 12 are free.
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