There are a lot of 5K road races in Savannah this time of year, but few that are dog friendly and even fewer that encourage dog owners to not only bring their pets, but dress them in costumes!
Even though Halloween was over, TailsSpin, a local pet store in the Habersham shopping center, decided it would be fun and educational to host a 5K run and Guinness World Record breaking attempt for most pets in costume in a parade. They also added a twist to the event by using the money collected to help educate and raise awareness for pet owners, estimating that nearly one in four dogs alone will have cancer, often times fatal.
Pet owners had to register and have copies of their current rabies vaccination present on them during the parade, which some pet owners felt was overkill, but for the count to be official, pets had to have current vet checks, shot records up to date and be wearing a two piece, not one piece costume.
This could consist of a scarf and hat or sweater and scarf or pants and shirt and nearly 200 dogs met the requirements, while some fell short and others just came to watch.
The group had to beat the old record of 337 dogs and did not make it, but that certainly did not deter the group from trying and having fun and enjoying a beautiful fall day outdoors with their dogs and their human children as well.
One tea cup chihuahua escaped from its owners but was recaptured after running under a parked car. A few larger breed dogs took the liberty of using a neighbor's yard as a port-o-let, while most owners came prepared to bag and toss what their pets left behind.
There was plenty of butt sniffing, nose greetings, wagging tails, treats and last minute costume adjustments and nearly every camera crew from local news stations were present taking photos of the dogs and hoping for a record breaking turn out.
Before the event began there was a moment of silence to remember pets lost to cancer and TailsSpin co-owner, Jusak Bernhard could not help breaking down in tears, perhaps in memory of a lost pet or in awe of the great response from area pet owners who cared so much about the cause and supported the event.
Bernhard said that it didn't matter if they didn't break the event as long as everyone had a good time and were able to raise awareness about cancer in pets and ways to prevent it.
Many dog owners have switched from commercial pet foods and topical pesticides and gone more natural, feeling that many pet food companies are not putting the same quality into their pet foods that they would for human foods and citing numerous incidents of dogs getting sick after eating dried jerky and rawhide bones as well as recalls of popular brands of dog food recently.
Bernhard and partner Jeff Manley want to make the Woof Woof 5K an annual event and invite Guinness World Records back for another attempt next year.
Michael Empric, the official counter for Guinness, walked away from the count with pursed lips and a downward glance, even though the count was not official and everyone guessed we had not made the cut, but many dog owners said they felt as if they were walking down the red carpet for a Hollywood premier and their dogs pranced by their sides as if they agreed.
While some people just participated in the walk around the block, others participated in the run itself with their fit pets, though the focus seemed more on the dogs.
Proceeds from the event will be used to help Blue Buffalo Foundation for Cancer Research, Hope Chest Charitable Foundation and several pet rescue agencies in the Savannah and surrounding communities.
Dawn Brown's classroom put together the pink, white and blue paper lanterns that hung along the parade route with photos in memory of pets that had died of cancer.
Many different things can cause cancer in pets, including genetics, chemicals in the house and yard, poor food sources and tainted water.
Treatments for pet cancer can be more expensive than human treatments, are often ineffective and are almost always difficult to deal with watching your pet suffering and knowing they might die anyway.
Many pet owners are going the prevention route and feeding more expensive organic foods or even preparing their pets meals themselves using foods like kale, sweet potatoes, organic meats and even natural spring water.
Generally the older a pet lives, the greater their susceptibility to cancer as their cells age and become damaged over time.
Though cancer is a serious subject, the pet parade and road race were very much welcomed by dog owners who had a fun time greeting one another and participating in a beautiful fall event just for them.
Many runners did not participate thinking you had to have a dog to run the race, but many non-dog owners participated and some even borrowed an extra dog from owners with two or more and jogged along with them.
If you would like to know more about preventing cancer in your pets, visit: http://www.petcancerawareness.org/