MARCO ISLAND — The dogs of Marco Island were on parade Tuesday at the Canine Parade. This Christmas Island Style event was the first ever to be dedicated to the four-legged residents of Marco Island.
“So may people on the island have dogs,” said Steve Stefanides, chairman of Christmas Island Style. “They are part of their families and we wanted to do something light hearted and fun to bring people out.”
Thirty-five dogs and their owners met at the Island Walk Plaza to register and receive a number. The dogs then lined up to be blessed by Reverend Sue Price, assisting priest at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church.
Price often goes to happy occasions such as parades or the adoption of a new puppy to bless pets. She is also available to comfort owners in sad times when a pet is ill or passes away.
“The love of a dog is unconditional, they don’t care what you wear or how much money you make,” Price said. “There are so many benefits of what dogs can do for people from helping them to live longer, to comforting the lonely. I think animals demonstrate God’s unconditional love better than anything.”
After the pets were blessed, the parade began and the pets strutted their stuff around the plaza and were judged on their outfits and personalities.
Little Za Za, the teacup yorkshire terrier belonging to Judy, was festooned in a red Christmas outfit with bows. While her friend Nico, a yorkshire terrier, wore a Christmas costume from a previous year. Both won prizes, a gift certificate to Vandy’s and a gift certificate to the Blue Mangrove Gallery.
A standout to the judges was BG, a lhasa asp who was dressed as a Christmas package in pink and silver. Her groomer from Critter Cafe had added an extra flare by dying BG’s fur pink around her ankles. She won Best Dressed.
“Oh we had so much fun here playing with BG’s little friend Samantha from dog park,” said Ginny Cochran, BG’s owner. “They call her Lady GaGa because she always has some pink color.”
While the judges were making their decisions, pet owners had time to visit the different vendors and organizations that were set up throughout the plaza.
“We knew we were going to have a parade and we wanted to have vendors that would interest pet owners,” said Sue Purvis, event coordinator. “We wanted owners to have the ability to learn about services offered on the island such as grooming, boarding, training and medical issues.”
Colin and June Glass from Bark Busters were there with their dog Robbie telling pet owners how to keep the holidays fun and safe for their dogs. Bark Busters is a home dog training service that assists pet owners in everything from choosing what type of pet to adopt to training a new puppy.
“We are the world’s largest dog training company and have trained more than half a million dogs,” Colin Glass said. “We train a lot of dogs on Marco Island.”
Glass, a dog behavioral therapist and trainer with Bark Busters, writes an informational pet column for the Naples Daily News called Canine Corner. He talks about issues ranging from canine dental health to working at home with a dog.
Next to Bark Busters, the Critter Cafe had an information table set up. Golden retriever, Lambeau was greeting dogs as his owner, Lisa Howard talked with owners about the many services offered by Critter Cafe ranging from boarding, doggie daycare, grooming and retail products.
“We just wanted to come and say hello to all of our customers and tell people about our services,” Howard said.
Other vendors included the Island Animal Hospital and the Blue Mangrove Gallery.
“We have all sorts of things to do with pets ranging from cookie jars to napkins and ornaments,” said owner Celeste Navara. “We have dog treats and gift bags where you can make your own dog and kitty treats.”
Many pet owners were scoping out items that would make good presents, or stocking stuffers, for their pets.
While owners shopped, there was quite a lot of bustle as dogs greeted one another and sniffed every square inch of Marco Walk. Owners kept everyone under control and happy while dogs received treats, scratches and praise from other pet owners.
“To have this many people show up was amazing,” Stefanides said.
A full list of Christmas Island Style events can be found at www.christmasislandstyle.com.