It’s hard to imagine a place where man’s best friend is more loved than Graeagle, the popular Lost Sierra destination where locals and visitors alike gathered June 23 to support High Sierra Animal Rescue’s (HSAR) fourth annual Paws on Parade festival.
It was definitely dog-heaven at the community event with four-legged sweethearts splashing in wading pools, racing through agility courses, chasing fly balls and gleefully snooping through a straw-filled scavenger hunt for hidden treats.
“Does it matter if he eats his prizes before the hunt is over?” one man called out from his end of the leash on a hilarious basset hound. “I think he’s up to four so far!”
Lined with colorful booths offering services, supplies and adornments for both the human and canine crowds, Graeagle Park’s spacious green lawn was filled with at least 100 dogs out walking their owners.Children sat for face painting masterpieces then ran off with their beloved pets while trainers gave tips to inquisitive folks accompanied by dogs of every size, shape, color and breed.
No festival would be complete without good music.
“Folks up in the canyon, they don’t mind those city ways,” sang an acoustic duo from Portola, Penny and Dude, who have played together for 40 years. Nearby, a baby danced and swayed to every note, a look of intense concentration filling his tiny face.
You never saw so many happy dogs in your life as families made their way around the park sharing with out-of-towners the many things they love about Plumas County.
“We vacation here every year and we love this area. It’s a joy to support this event,” said John Gajdos of Morro Bay whose wife, Elaine Giannini, was carrying around a scrappy little one-eyed Chihuahua rescue named Patches.
And then it was time to get ready for the two big events — a wild game of musical chairs (the owners can’t sit until the dogs do) and a Retriever’s Ball at the mill pond.
For all the fun and games to be had, the event is a top fundraiser for some very serious and important needs — animal rescue and adoption efforts in Plumas County.
“This is a really good adoption event for us,” said HSAR Board Member Carole Scott who manages volunteers for the organization.
Scott was staffing the adoption table and said, “We do events all over the county and in Reno, too. We usually have 10 to 15 dogs available at any one time and today, we have five wonderful dogs available to go to good homes.”
Scott said about 75 dedicated volunteers, many of them snowbirds to the area, make it possible for HSAR to rescue and find new homes for up to 200 dogs a year.
The agency offers dogs of all ages for adoption, from puppies to seniors of 8 to 12 years, and assures would-be new dog owners that older dogs make wonderful pets.
“Older dogs make excellent companions and right now, we also have two litters of puppies being weaned for good homes, nine of them are a boxer mix and four are black-lab mixes,” said Doug Hart of Graeagle, an HSAR board member who handles public relations.
“We do have a specific adoption process and application for our animals and we’re always looking for foster homes, too,” Hart said, explaining that typical HSAR adopters come from all over California, Arizona and Oregon.
He added, if you can’t adopt, please consider sponsoring a special-needs animal in their care.
“One of our puppies has a congenital heart failure defect, a hole in his heart, and we don’t know how long he might live,” Hart said. “He will need a very special foster home.”
Volunteers Mark and Stephanie Stathes of Graeagle serve as adoption counselors and offered plenty of helpful advice for festival attendees considering making a dog part of their family.
“Don’t rush to adopt,” Mark said, glancing at his wife who was holding a tiny, adoptable 8-year-old Yorkie mix named Gidget.
“We always ask people what they are looking for in a dog because we want to make sure the people and the dog are a good fit for each other,” said Stephanie, combing Gidget’s silky fur.
The rescue group has been in operation since 1999 and the counselors said HSAR offers various services and programs, including adoption discounts for veterans and a special senior-to-senior program for retirees who adopt dogs aged 8 and up.
And everything they accomplish is thanks to their generous volunteers who donate time to the organization.
“We always need more helping hands, so even if you can only donate half a day or half an hour a month, please call us to volunteer,” Stephanie said.
For more information and a calendar of events, contact HSAR at 103 Meadowridge Lane, Portola CA 96122. Inquiries are also welcome by phone at 832-4727 or email [email protected].