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Barktoberfest Showcases Costumed Dogs, New Animal Facility

Helen (left) and Imani Sidiropoulos hold pomapoos Cookie and Gizmo, who took first place in the costume contest.The community flocked by the hundreds Sunday to the eighth annual Barktoberfest — and the first one at the new Humane Care Campus on the Weymouth Rhymer Highway.

"It’s about animals, of course, but it’s also about the children, about people, about community, about all of us," said Joseph Aubain, Humane Society of St. Thomas president, while conducting a tour of the facility that will bear his name.

He was pleased at the turnout, but even more pleased to announce a February opening for the Campus. With a big grin, Aubain announced the work is very close to becoming a reality. Ground was broken for the new campus in June 2006. At the time, the opening was projected for 18 months — early 2008.

"The tours were jammed all day, and that’s what we wanted," Aubain said. "People need to see the campus to get an appreciation for what we’re trying to do, which you really can’t tell otherwise. And it’s great so see people come out for the day and hang with their dogs."

And boy, did folks ever hang with those dogs: big dogs, little dogs, funny dogs, shy dogs, hot dogs. Every conceivable species (and maybe a few new mixes) showed up. They were all there, from sprites to strippers, with a few pirates, princesses and Mexican hat dancers thrown in.

A slinky Weimaraner called Lessie wound her way through the crowd in a black stripper outfit and black shades. A slender black lab named Wessie took a slightly higher road, strolling through the melee as a wood nymph, sporting a large bright pink butterfly on her back, her muzzle adorned with a garland of autumn leaves.

Noting that it was 10 years ago that the "very first line was drawn on the project," Aubain took obvious delight in guiding folks through the sparkling new buildings, starting in the reception area and winding up at the Corrine E. Lockhart Education Center.

Lockhart was there for the festivities but declined a tour of the property, seeming pleased just to watch the enjoyment of the youngsters and the pets.

Aubain took special pride in showing the state-of-the-art kennel system, which can house from 60 to 80 dogs. The enclosures have doors a few inches off the floor to facilitate hosing them down. All of the construction is done locally, with the exception of installing the kennels.

There is a modern crematorium on the property, about which Aubain delivered some sobering facts.

"We have to put down from 1,800 to 1,900 animals a year," he said. "With a population of 50,000, we need to do better job of education."

The mainland Animal Rescue League will send a veterinarian to the territory early next year for low cost, no cost operations at the animal treatment center.

The facility won’t be limited to cats and dogs, Aubain said, getting the attention of the youngsters on the tour.

"We’ll have bunnies in the hutch, birds in the aviary, iguanas in their aviary, and a small herd of goats," he said.


"Yes," Aubain said. "We will use their milk to feed the kittens. They love it, and it’s good for them."

There are nature trails throughout the lushly planted five-acre campus, which is located on the edge of a detention pond that will become a wetland habitat and bird sanctuary.

"In fact,"Aubain said, "there’s a bunch of baby duckies there now."

And the winners were:

— Best Costume: Gizmo and Cookie, the prince and princess. Owners: Imani and Helen Sidiropoulos;

— Best Dancer: Mocha. Owner: Rhea Vasconcellos; and

— Best Trick and Best Kisser: Maxie. Owner: John Klein.

Master of ceremonies Drew Russo said the winner of the last two categories had to be combined, "’cause after Maxie stood on his hind legs and spun for a treat and then jumped into John’s lap kissed him, what could we do?"

The highlight of the day was the tours, Russo said.

"The whole idea was to familiarize folks with the campus," he said, estimating the crowd at about 400.

Oh, there was one more category which went unattended: howling.

"There was a dog entered, but it never showed up," Russo said.

And nobody seemed to mind.

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