Four-legged visitors welcome at Huntley's Dog-tober Fest

Want to have a doggone good time this weekend? Then pack up the kids, your dog and your camera, and head over to Huntley's Deicke Park for Dog-tober Fest 2010, an afternoon of family fun that benefits animal rescue charities throughout northern Illinois.

Now in its second year, this pet-friendly fair runs from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 2 with dozens of fun activities, informational displays, booths and refreshments located throughout the park.

Admission is free and money raised by the organizers goes to support the dozen or more participating rescue groups and shelters.

Dog lovers can start the day with the "Going To The Dogs" Fun Run And Walk, a fundraiser for the Animal House Shelter of Huntley. Registration starts at 10 a.m. and the one-mile run begins at 11 a.m. near Stingray Bay in Deicke Park. Fees are $20 for adults, $15 for ages 5-12, and free for children age 4 and younger. Everyone gets a T-shirt and dogs are welcome, too, if they are leashed and stay with their owners.

Dog-tober festivities begin at noon with a free Pet Parade that is open to all ages and breeds.

"Bring your dog, dress up your dog, dress like your dog, whatever you'd like to do," says Dog-tober Fest co-organizer Kim Ashbaugh. "We'll be giving prizes away for the three best-dressed."

Also very popular is the Pet Blessing at 1 p.m., conducted by the Rev. Michelle McNamara of Hampshire. Families can bring any animal a dog, cat, rabbit, bird, or other pet to this nondenominational blessing ceremony.

Other attractions include a demo by the McHenry County Sheriff's K-9 unit, pet training and agility demonstrations, a gift basket raffle, dozens of booths, and doggy contests for owners and their pets.

The Peanut Butter Eating contest tests how fast a dog can gobble peanut butter and lick a spoon clean. In "Musical Sits," dogs walk in a circle until the music stops and they're told to sit. Those who don't are "out," until only one winner remains.

Dog-tober Fest is the "pet project" of two local women who love dogs and want to encourage others to help homeless pets.

"We don't make a dime from this, we do it for the animals," says Ashbaugh, who spent months working with a friend, Pat Shinka of Hampshire, to organize the event.

"Pat has been involved with Great Dane rescue a group called 'Dane 911' and I'm involved with a pit bull rescue called the 'Bombshell Bullies,'" she explains. "We believe in pet adoption, and we're really passionate about it."

The women recruited more than a dozen area rescue groups and shelters to bring out their dogs, meet the public, and spread the word about animal rescue, fostering programs and adoption.

"People don't know where to go to find out about 'rescues,'" said Shinka, who formerly ran a day care center for dogs. "We encouraged them to learn what the different breeds are like, and see what's best for them.'

Many shelters and rescue organizations will bring some of their adoptable pets to meet visitors and enjoy the park.

"We'll have pit bulls, Great Danes, and golden retrievers coming out," Ashbaugh said. "We have dachshunds and shorthairs, Rottweilers, and all sorts of dogs. Several local shelters will come out with mixed breeds."

Families can meet the rescued dogs and learn about adoption, but they can't take them home at least not yet, says Shinka.

"The idea is to show people what is available, and teach them about pet adoption. This is a way to get the process started."

At her Huntley home, Ashbaugh and her husband are fostering two rescued pit bulls. She encourages people who to avoid breeders and contact rescue groups when they want a pet.

"When you go to backyard breeders, you don't always know what you're getting," she says. "Use that opportunity instead to rescue an animal and save a life."

• Dog-tober Fest 2010 runs from noon 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2 at Deicke Park, located off Route 47 in Huntley. For details, call (847) 699-3383.

Dog-tober Fest 2010Dog-tober Fest 2010 is set for noon to 4 p.m. Saturday on the west side of Deicke Park, off Route 47, Huntley. Admission is free. For details, call (630) 699-3383 or e-mail of eventsNoon Dog-tober Fest pet paradeNoon Agility run for the Rabies Challenge Fund1 p.m. Pet blessing with the Rev. Michelle McNamara1 p.m. Intermediate agilityclass/demo1 p.m. Musical sits contest2 p.m. Police K-9 demo2 p.m. Contests for longest and shortest tail, tongue and Dog2:30 p.m. Pet blessing with the Rev. Michelle McNamara3 p.m. Peanut butter eating contest3 p.m. Beginners' agility class/demo3 p.m. Raffle prizes announced3:45 p.m. Rescue/Shelter winner announcedParticipating nonprofit shelters and rescue organizationsbull; Airedale Rescuebull; Animal House Shelterbull; Animal Outreach Societybull; As Good As Gold/Golden Retriever Rescue of Northern Illinoisbull; Bassett Buddies Rescue, Inc.bull; Bombshell Bulliesbull; Brew, Inc. Midwest Region/beagle rescuebull; Collie Rescue of Greater Illinois, Inc.bull; Great Dane Rescue Midwestbull; Hip Dysplasia Funding Foundationbull; JCCARE/Japanese Chin Care and Rescue Effortbull; Second Chance Pet Adoptionbull; THORR/True Hearts of Rottweiler RescueFalse640480John Rawlings, whose wife Doree is a professional dog trainer and involved with Dane 911, a Great Dane rescue organization, attended last year's Dog-tober event with his rescued Great Dane, Mia.Courtesy Kim AshbaughFalse