Editor's note: The following was written by Laurie Crawford, president of Animal Network Inc.
The 15th Annual Canine Christmas event is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 16 on the grounds at Bishop Animal Shelter, 5718 21st Ave. W.
Back in 1999, when we first started Canine Christmas, Manatee County was different. For instance, one agency would not let me adopt a dog because I did not have a fenced-in yard and Animal Services put down 40 animals a day. Today the euthanasia rate is minimal.
Younger and energetic, a bunch of us crazy dog people decided to hold a dog party while we were waiting for the dog park to open, which is why our group formed. We held it at G.T. Bray park and our main purpose was to draw attention to the great dogs available at shelters and from rescue groups.
The first fashion show was strictly monitored to make sure all canine super model contestants were rescued, much to the dismay of Fluffy's owner, who purchased Fluffy from a breeder and maintained Fluffy's superior bloodline. Although Fluffy was not a contestant, Fluffy's mother found a rescue dog to be a well-matched companion for Fluffy.
Contestants that first year ranged from a deaf Dalmatian to a diminutive quadriplegic dog dressed as Tiny Tim, complete with a small crutch and tiny leather boots in a remote-controlled sleigh. Directors of three established shelters judged the fashion show. A volunteer compared the judging trio to a meeting of the United Nations, since the shelters did not work together then as they do now. Now we are all working for a shared goal to make Manatee County No Kill.
We asked our guests to bring pet food to the festival as admission. Our younger selves collected the pet food and hauled it to storage to distribute to Animal Services, Humane Society, Bishop Animal Shelter and underfunded rescue groups. One can only imagine the labor involved. It did not matter. We did it because our passion for animals in our community is what mattered.
That is still what matters and why we do what we do -- 15 years ago, many thought we would go away, but we are still here.
So, we hope you will attend our 15th Canine Christmas. We always evolve and our location for the last five years is at Bishop Animal Shelter, SPCA. The beautiful grounds are our venue and Bishop is a remarkable host. They provide not only a beautiful property, their staff pitches in and much more, for which we are so grateful.
We are going to have many popular aspects of our renowned event, including the fashion show at 1:30 p.m. Look for my dog and my foster who will be attired in Star Wars garb. There is a $5 fee for entering your dog in the fashion show.
At noon, we will once again try to set the Guinness World Record for the most dogs doing a sit-stay command. This year will be the third and final attempt. We have come within nine dogs of the record, and we're doing it right before the parade of adoptable dogs, so hopefully the dogs and their owners will not be as worn out as in the past.
We are also having a food truck rally, so there will be lots of good food available. There will be many dogs for adoption at the Bishop Shelter as well as the many rescue groups represented. There will be many booths selling cool items for pet lovers, a silent auction including a VIP ticket package for the Tampa Bay Lightning, a 50/50 drawing that often tops $4,000 and raffle prizes galore.
Many people ask what we do with the money we raise. We have always been advocates for the voiceless victims of neglect, animal cruelty and the disadvantaged who cannot necessarily care for their animals. We hold shot clinics for pets in underprivileged neighborhoods to provide necessary vaccinations, as well as education regarding free and low-cost spay and neuter sterilization programs. We provide boarding to animals for victims of domestic violence who cannot take their pets to a shelter and we assist rescue dogs with medical issues.
Please come and support our community fundraiser, where all the money stays in Manatee County. You can enter Bishop from 59th Street West or the 21st Avenue entrance. We ask for a $3 donation for parking. For more information about Canine Christmas, go to caninechristmas.com or call 941-746-3611. Thank you and we will see you at the event!