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Annual GoldenFest a hit for pets and their owners

By Staff | Oct 16, 2013

It was a day where the dogs almost outnumbered the humans.

Dogs of all kinds, especially golden retrievers, were on hand with their owners for a day of fun as the Golden Retriever Rescue of Southwest Florida hosted the fifth-annual GoldenFest on Saturday at Doggy Heaven at the Shell Factory & Nature Park in front of the front parking lot facing U.S. 41.

The event, which was hosted by the Shell Factory for the second time, serves as the annual fundraiser for the GRRSWF and, judging by the crowd of both man and beast, it was a huge success.

“Not only does it bring in funds to offset the medical costs, but brings awareness of our organization,” said Alesia Mata, president of GRRSWF. “The Shell Factory has been great, which has generated a good amount of money for this rescue and all donations go toward the dogs.”

The organization rescues dogs from shelters and strays and brings them to their shelters in hopes of finding homes for them, Mata said.

The event included dozens of vendors and exhibits, numerous raffles and silent auctions for great prizes, a blood drive with Florida Blood Center’s Bloodmobile and more.

Also, there was an AquaDogs dock-diving national qualifying competition, where dogs of all breeds showed off their athletic talent and brought out a large crowd.

But it was the dogs that were the stars of this show, and the dogs the GRRSWF put up for adoption (retrievers, of course) wore pink bandanas so people could easily identify them.

The adult dogs seemed to enjoy the pool where they got to lay down and cool off on a hot afternoon.

But there was a puppy, Darwin, 11 weeks old, who dared to enter the water with them and take part in a new adventure for him.

The GRRSWF wasn’t the only adoption agency there. One of the vendors was devoted to bring understanding and adoption to the pit bull, which Carey Vandermeulen said is a horribly misunderstood animal.

“We take them to community events and facilitate adoptions. We’ve done more than 200 in the last two years,” Vandermeulen said. “We teach those who love the breed to be responsible and tell them to talk to neighbors to dispel the myth because they have the same temperament as other dogs.”

Keith Cheshire found out how much fun there was for dogs as he walked the grounds with his rottweilers Bone-Z, Sofie and Bella – or were they walking him.

“They’re excited. They’ve wanted to get out and play,” Cheshire said. “I’m just trying to not run anyone over.”

Gary Falck, who has adopted numerous golden retrievers, came with one of them, Miley, who got all dolled up for the occasion.

“The family got the dog, the mother got pregnant and the family didn’t want the baby and the dog together. We decided to take her in,” Flack said. “We have no children and these retrievers are like family.”