By Herb Moering
It was a dog lovers paradise with obedience demonstrations, races, potential adoptions and fundraising all wrapped up in the 2nd Annual Pet Fun Match Dog Show held Feb. 11 at the Sunshine RV Resort in Harlingen.
The two-hour free event, organized by resort resident Sharon Battocletti, is aimed at benefitting the Humane Society of Harlingen (HSH). The society operates a non-profit shelter and adoption center, which annually provides care to 6,000 homeless animals turned over by municipal control officers or given up by local residents.
The show was as big a hit this time as last year, again drawing about 200 spectators and dog owners from the resort and a few nearby RV parks.
The show opened with a parade of dogs with their owners walking down the center carpet of Friendship Hall. The dogs came in all breeds and sizes, with owners pausing briefly to have a picture taken.
Several demonstrations followed. Impressive was that of RGV K9 Training Centre of Edinburg. Trainer Brittany Vielma put her German shepherd through the paces, following commands almost perfectly, whether “down,” “sit,” or “stay” at her side. She also discussed the different types of service dogs, including therapy animals, that have emerged to help people.
Equally remarkable was the border collie under the command of trainer Jenisa Myers, demonstrating how one type of service dog could aid a wheelchair-bound individual by fetching a dropped item, in this instance an artificial dog bone. The deaf collie also delighted the audience with a stand and sit on Myers’ upturned shoes as she lay on her back. Myers noted that handicapped dogs need not be considered as disposable. They can be highly useful, she indicated.
Vielma noted the center offers several options in training one’s dog with private lessons, day training, board and train and specialty group classes that can include advance obedience and trick training. The aim is to overcome any gap in communication so that a dog will listen to the owner.
PetSmart trainer, Caz Richard, also talked about training lessons. Then she led her canine friend through some obedience commands.
The show was intended to be fun, too. Races were often comical as some dogs, instead of racing across the hall stage to their owners, chose to amble along, sometimes wandering off to one side before making it to the finish line.
Resort residents with dogs were encouraged to take part in a Look Alike contest, with some cute costuming dominating the dozen or so entrants. The winner was Daniela Lancotto with Salsa; 2nd place, Ruth Kouski with Roxie, and taking 3rd Stephanie Vorchees with Birdie.
Battocletti emphasized that one of the goals is “to show animal lovers that through obedience and agility training, solutions can be found to dogs with behavioral problems and to develop an unbreakable bond along the way.”
The popularity of dogs seems to be growing as more stores are accepting of them as owners’ shop, according to the organizer. “People don’t realize how important pets are to us,” Battocletti said. “They are family.”
And she should know, after three of her pets passed away last year. She has since acquired two new border collies. One she purchased and the second one with blindness was handed to her husband and they were asked to find a good home for her. The home found was theirs.
It was important to raise money for the Humane Society, which receives a small amount of funding from the city but is mainly funded through donations. Battocletti said they raised a total of $1,702.45 this year, an increase more than double the $700 garnered last winter.
Much of the funding came through a dog and cat contest on a 50/50 raffle that was new this year. Selling tickets were a quartet costumed like dogs and cats, Lexa Bentley and Susie Lanier from Sunshine RV, and Karen Balbert and Henry Blankenship from nearby sister park Tropic Winds.
A silent auction of donated items also was new this year and helped add to the total. Battocletti praised local businesses for the great donations, noting none of the owners turned down her request.
The help was much appreciated according to Lillian Kim, a Humane Society board director, who thanked the park for their support. Sarah Cano, HSH communications director, told the audience that the society is nearing its goal of becoming a “no kill shelter,” not having to euthanize any animals. She noted that in January of 2019 they were only able to save 30 percent of stray animals turned over to the shelter. But last month the save rate was nearly 82 percent thanks to an increase in adoptions and rescue transport efforts. The shelter is being helped in saving more animals by the Best Friends organization out of Utah.
To promote adoptions, the humane society paraded a half-dozen dogs across the carpet for spectators to view. HSH also was willing to waive adoption fees with a donation and were offering low-cost microchipping and nail trimming. All pets are vaccinated, microchipped, and spayed/neutered prior to adoption.
Contestants, who have been in the Ms. South Texas Senior America Pageant were at the show to promote the upcoming event in Harlingen that was held Feb. 16. It is the only event south of Dallas that is held for women “60 and better.” Joie Quick, who is the 2019 Ms. South Texas Nobility title holder, was on a special mission to present a check for $400 to the humane society for purchase of a clothes dryer to replace an unreliable unit at the shelter.
Quick, a Sunshine RV Resort resident, also volunteers at the HSH shelter. She was joined at the presentation by three other pageant winners, Neida Ruth Grantland, Mary Jo Vela, and Elia Lopez, the founder and director of the pageant.
As the show wound down, Battocletti, who has participated in dog shows up north, offered her profound thanks to all those who helped her in putting on the one-of-a-kind show in the Valley.