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Pets, owners visit Laurel Park for animal shelter fundraiser
Dogs competed in dock diving events at Pet Fest
Cody Elder holds his dog, Bella, during the owner-pet lookalike contest Saturday at the Lake Lanier Pet Fest at Laurel Park. - photo by Tom Reed

Lake Lanier Pet Fest

When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today
Where: Laurel Park, 3100 Old Cleveland Highway, Gainesville
How much: $5 per car; additional charges for other activities
More info: 678-450-1587,

Pet lovers and owners bonded with their pets while celebrating a love for animals Saturday at Laurel Park in the second Lake Lanier Pet Fest.

The event, which continues today, is a fundraiser for Hall County Animal Shelter and sponsored by Hall County Parks and Leisure.

The activities included dog dock diving and numerous contests, including dog agility and owner and dog look-alike. Vendors sold food, pet items and services and live music was provided.

Saturday's events included a 5-kilometer run and one-mile dog trot.

Pet owners were allowed to bring their pets, and the shelter brought some pets for adoption.

"We encourage people to bring their pets and enjoy the park," Assistant County Administrator Marty Nix said. "We have some of the best in Hall County up for adoption. They brought the best of the best."

One of the main attractions was the dog dock diving put on by Dixie DockDogs, a chapter of the national DockDogs, with members in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina.

"We're a bunch of people that like to get together and have fun with their dogs," said Nancy Akin, co-founder and publicity chairwoman of Dixie DockDogs.

The competition features three disciplines. The most popular is Big Air.

"Dogs run across a 40 foot dock and jump," Akin said. "We see how far they jump."

The dog who jumps farthest wins.

The second is Extreme Vertical, in which a bumper is hung high above the water and the dogs have to jump up to get it.

"It's like a high jump for dogs," Akin said.

The third is Speed Retrieve. The bumper is hung at the far end of the pool, and the dogs are timed for how fast it takes them to run and swim to it.

The finals are set for around 2 p.m. today.

A youth handler program for participants ages 7-16 holds its finals today. Every team participating earns a ribbon.

"The dogs love it," Akin said. "There's nothing we enjoy more than to see our dogs have fun. It's fun for us and the people, too. We're all friends, and we all have fun together."

Dixie DockDogs is a nonprofit organization and donate part of the proceeds to Chase Away Canine Cancer.

"Every breed is welcome," Akin said of the competition. "Your dog doesn't have to be experienced. You have to start somewhere. Just bring your dog out to one of our practices and try it out."

Dogs only have to be 6 months old to participate and compete with other dogs of similar skill level.

Glen and Leisa Jones of Decatur brought their dog, Kona, to participate in the dock diving. He competed in Big Air on Saturday and will compete in Speed Retrieve on Sunday.

"We brought him last year, and we're back again," Glen said.

"I love him being with all of the dogs," Leisa said. "You don't get that all of the time."

Eldon and Katrina Dodd, of Clermont, brought their two dogs, Gracie and Trance to Pet Fest. They saw information about the festivities on the internet and decided to come check it out. Neither of their dogs were participating in any of the competitions this year.

"He's not too happy about getting in the water," Katrina said of their dog, Trance.

"Maybe next time," Eldon said about their other dog, Gracie. "She likes the water a little better."

Eldon said he enjoyed bringing their dogs to Pet Fest because they were "...getting to socialize them better."

All of the proceeds of Pet Fest go to the Hall County Animal Shelter. It helps funds the shelter's programs like their transport program.

"The transport program was established to take our animals up north," Nix said. "The trailer is funded by donations. It gives animals the chance to be adopted."

In the north, there aren't as many stray dogs. Hall County Animal Shelter takes a lot of their dogs and takes them to the north to increase their chances of finding a home.

The proceeds also help with the shelter's educational programs.

"We want to educate people about spay and neuter," Nix said.

The shelter plans to hold the event around this time again next year as well.

"If you come and support Pet Fest, you're supporting animals," Nix said. "That's what we're all about."


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