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Bark and Bond Chat: Celebrating Canine Connections with Steve Smith at Bark in the Park

Yeehaw! This adorable pup dressed as a cowboy steals the show at last year's Bark in the Park costume contest. (Photo courtesy of Steve Smith, Humane Society of Vero Beach & Indian River County, INC)
Yeehaw! This adorable pup dressed as a cowboy steals the show at last year's Bark in the Park costume contest. (Photo courtesy of Steve Smith, Humane Society of Vero Beach & Indian River County, INC)

On January 6, 2024, the Humane Society of Vero Beach & Indian River County invites everyone to the 12th annual Bark in the Park at Riverside Park. In anticipation of this free, family-friendly event, we had the pleasure of interviewing Steve Smith, Director of Marketing at the Humane Society of Vero Beach & Indian River County. The event will feature a plethora of activities including the Disconnected K-9 Frisbee dogs, Ultimate Diving Dogs, a new 40-yard pup dash, dog costume contests, and a lure course. Visitors can also enjoy various food options, merchandise booths, and a kid’s zone. All proceeds from Bark in the Park will aid local homeless and at-risk animals, celebrating the human-dog bond while supporting animal welfare in the community.

Takeaways

  • Safety and Joy at Forefront: Bark in the Park prioritizes safety with experienced trainers and on-site veterinary support, while ensuring an entertaining experience through attractions like the Disc-Connected K-9's, Ultimate Air Dogs, and Puppy Pals Comedic Stunt Dog Show.

  • Diverse and Interactive Attractions: The event features a range of activities catering to different dogs' sizes and abilities, from the adjustable Dog Lure Course to the inclusive Dog Costume Contest. Plus, new additions like the 40-yard dash and the unique bacon-scented Bubble Bus promise extra excitement and engagement for both pets and owners.

A spectacular display of teamwork: this Disc-Connected K-9 masterfully catches a frisbee mid-air, while the handler, engaged with both the dog and the audience, guides the performance. (Photo courtesy of Steve Smith, Humane Society of Vero Beach & Indian River County, INC)
A spectacular display of teamwork: this Disc-Connected K-9 masterfully catches a frisbee mid-air, while the handler, engaged with both the dog and the audience, guides the performance. (Photo courtesy of Steve Smith, Humane Society of Vero Beach & Indian River County, INC)

Q: With a variety of attractions like the Disc-Connected K-9's and Ultimate Air Dogs, how do you ensure the safety and well-being of both the performing dogs and the pets attending the event?


A: Ensuring the safety and well-being of both the performing dogs and the pets attending the event is our top priority. We work closely with experienced trainers and handlers for attractions like the Disc-Connected K-9's and Ultimate Air Dogs. These professionals are well-versed in dog behavior, and we strictly adhere to best practices in animal welfare. Additionally, we have designated areas for rest and relaxation to help manage stress levels for the performing dogs. Veterinary support is on-site throughout the event to address any health concerns promptly.


A Puppy Pals Comedic Stunt Dog shows off remarkable agility, effortlessly jumping through two hoops, captivating the audience. (Photo courtesy of Steve Smith, Humane Society of Vero Beach & Indian River County, INC)
A Puppy Pals Comedic Stunt Dog shows off remarkable agility, effortlessly jumping through two hoops, captivating the audience. (Photo courtesy of Steve Smith, Humane Society of Vero Beach & Indian River County, INC)

Q: The Puppy Pals Comedic Stunt Dog Show promises to be an entertaining feature for attendees. As an organizer, what do you look for in selecting special acts like this for Bark in the Park, and how do these performances align with the overall spirit of the event?


A: When selecting special acts like the Puppy Pals Comedic Stunt Dog Show, we prioritize entertainment value, positive reinforcement training methods, and a strong connection to the overall spirit of Bark in the Park. We look for acts that celebrate the bond between humans and dogs, promote responsible pet ownership, and bring joy to our audience. The performances should align with the family-friendly and inclusive atmosphere we aim to create at the event.


Q: Can you describe the process and considerations that go into setting up the Dog Lure Course, ensuring it is both challenging and enjoyable for dogs of all sizes and skill levels?


A: The Dog Lure Course is designed with careful consideration for the diverse sizes and skill levels of participating dogs. We consult with canine behavior experts to create a course that challenges dogs physically and mentally while ensuring safety. The course features adjustable obstacles to accommodate different sizes, and we provide clear instructions for handlers. Trained staff members oversee the course to assist and guide participants, ensuring a challenging yet enjoyable experience for all. We also have one of our partners, a pet rehabilitation clinic that offers pet massages and a cool off zone.

A Sheriff's Department K9 expertly demonstrates his training by gripping onto a padded arm, showcasing the disciplined strength and skills vital for law enforcement work. (Photo courtesy of Steve Smith, Humane Society of Vero Beach & Indian River County, INC)
A Sheriff's Department K9 expertly demonstrates his training by gripping onto a padded arm, showcasing the disciplined strength and skills vital for law enforcement work. (Photo courtesy of Steve Smith, Humane Society of Vero Beach & Indian River County, INC)

Q: The Sheriff’s Department K9 Demonstration is a highlight for many. What can attendees expect from this display, and how does it aim to educate the public about the role of these working dogs?


A: The Sheriff's Department K9 Demonstration is a highlight that aims to educate the public about the crucial role of working dogs in law enforcement. Attendees can expect to witness impressive displays of agility, obedience, and teamwork between handlers and their K9 partners. This demonstration sheds light on the specialized training these dogs undergo and emphasizes their contribution to public safety.


This adorable pup brings a touch of intergalactic charm to the costume contest. (Photo courtesy of Steve Smith, Humane Society of Vero Beach & Indian River County, INC)
This adorable pup brings a touch of intergalactic charm to the costume contest. (Photo courtesy of Steve Smith, Humane Society of Vero Beach & Indian River County, INC)

Q: Lastly, participation in events like the Dog Costume Contest and the Doggy Look-a-like Contest adds a fun competitive edge to the day. How are these contests judged, and what advice would you give to participants looking to make a lasting impression?


A: Judging criteria for the Dog Costume Contest and Doggy Look-a-like Contest focus on creativity, originality, and the connection between the dog and its owner. Our panel of judges includes 2 volunteers from the shelter, and they evaluate each participant based on costume design, presentation, and the overall impression. To make a lasting impression, participants should consider the comfort of their dogs, showcase their unique personalities.


This year, we are adding a 40-yard dash activity and a Bubble Bus! The 40-yard dash is a thrilling race where each pooch gets a chance to dash down a 40-yard track, racing against the clock in a showcase of pawsome agility and speed. It's not just about being the fastest tail-wagger, but also about having a barking good time! The Bubble Bus blows clouds of bubbles, enchanting both kids and dogs alike. But here's the twist – these are not just any bubbles; they're bacon-scented!


(Editor's Note: As we eagerly anticipate the upcoming Bark in the Park event, it's important for dog owners to be aware of a recent canine respiratory illness that has been affecting dogs across the country. Dr. Deborah Silverstein, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, highlighted in a PBS News Hour story by Justin Stabley and Casey Kuhn (Dec. 20, 2023), the need for extra care for certain dogs. Particularly vulnerable are very young dogs who are not fully vaccinated, older dogs with weakened immune systems, and breeds with "smooshed faces" like pugs, Boston terriers, and bulldogs, whose anatomy can complicate breathing. This information is provided to help pet owners make informed decisions about participating in the event, ensuring the safety and well-being of all furry attendees.)


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Just Add Rover. While we strive to present accurate and reliable information, Just Add Rover does not endorse, approve, or certify such information, nor does it guarantee the accuracy, completeness, efficacy, timeliness, or correct sequencing of such information.


© 2023 Just Add Bark and Bond. All rights reserved. This interview has been conducted for www.justaddbarkandbond.org and is protected by copyright law. Reproduction of the interview, in whole or in part, is prohibited without prior written consent from Just Add Bark and Bond.





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