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Shelter event keeps tails wagging
Dock diving, adoptions featured at Pet Fest weekend event
Sasha, 3, a Pit Bull, and Reese, 1, a Chihuahua, hang out Saturday at Laurel Park during the Lake Lanier Pet Fest. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Lake Lanier Pet Fest

What: Contests, demonstrations and Dixie Dock Dogs regional competition; benefits the Hall County Animal Shelter

When: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. today

Where: Laurel Park, 3100 Old Cleveland Highway, Gainesville

How much: $5 parking

These dogs know how to jump.

Pets of all breeds and sizes participated Saturday in a regional dock diving competition at Laurel Park that continues today as part of the first Lake Lanier Pet Fest.

"This is the largest event we've ever had, and I know we have well over 200 competitors," said Nancy Akin, who co-founded Dixie Dock Dogs with her husband, Bill. This weekend is the first event that the group has held in Hall County.

"It's fantastic to see all of our members working so hard. It's so much fun working together, and the residents coming out to watch are loving it."

This weekend's competitions are sanctioned and feature regional competitors, but not all tail-wagging companions at Laurel Park competed in the event.

"It's a nice event you can do with the furry part of your family, and our dogs jump off our lake dock," said Marci Russo, who brought her two retrievers, Echo and Zevon. "We've never tried it, but we've seen it on TV and thought our dogs could do it because they jump the fence at home. Maybe I could at least teach them to do the high jump."

The inaugural event is a fundraiser benefiting the pets in waiting at the Hall County Animal Shelter. The shelter offered dogs for adoption Saturday, and shelter workers held pet competitions, such as a costume contest, owner-dog look-a-like contest, and ugliest dog contest, for residents who brought their pets to the festival.

"The Mutt Strutt is our biggest spotlight because everyone has a soft spot in their hearts for mutts," said Amanda Threadgill, a veterinary technician with the animal shelter who emceed the contests. "It's like a breed competition where they have to be healthy and well-behaved, but we focus on the uniqueness of the pets."

Winners took home a bag of treats, toys and coupons. At Saturday morning's costume contest, Kya won for her yellow-and-black bee costume.

"She's a year old and not very socialized, and I just couldn't help it. I wanted to see how she did with it," said Anna Hosemann, a Gillsville resident who had to buy a toddler's Halloween costume for the English mastiff to fit.

Hosemann wore yellow and black clothes to match Kya.

"I wanted to dress her in a Georgia Bulldogs jersey, but I couldn't find one big enough. This was the first thing I could find that would fit, so I figured, ‘how ironic.'"