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Pets-a-Palooza Teaches the Power of Positive Training


Hanover Park resident Urszula Bak is an unabashed dog lover, and has saved a number of them in her lifetime. “I’ve had dogs in my life since the moment I was born, and grew up with them,” Bak said. “I love them for their companionship, and I currently have four of them that are all rescue dogs.”


The Mooseheart Child City and School was alive with plenty of family, friends, and furry pets Sunday as the Anderson Animal Shelter, based in South Elgin, staged its third-annual Pets-a-Palooza event.


The five-hour event featured everything from training sessions and pet education tips to contests including best costume and best pet trick. Visitors also had the opportunity to view pets ready for adoption.


Last year’s Palooza drew 3,000 people, and executive director Beth Drake said she was hoping Sunday’s crowd would be equally as strong. She added that the focus of the event was all about building strong relationships within families and their pets.


“Our hope is that this is something that nurtures the human-animal bond, and people like to do this as a family and often bring their pets along,” Drake said. “This is a big part of our mission to enhance that bond and have families grow together, which means fewer animals making their way to our shelter.”


Drake said last year’s guests asked for more cat-related services, and organizers this year added programs including litter box training and behavior, health, and pet first aid classes to address that request.


Drake also emphasized the need to continue to reinforce the shelter’s philosophy on positive reinforcement training.


“A robust amount of studies have shown the effects of what adverse training can do, and we even have taken kids and had them teach dogs a simple behavior like sitting, and the children can see how effective positive reinforcement is,” Drake said. “Kids make that connection, and we hope it’s something they’ll incorporate some day as parents.”


Sunday’s hot weather seemed to bring an equal amount of suffering to pet lovers and well as animals, but visitors vowed to press on. Joe Remijas, a volunteer with the Anderson shelter for more than a decade, said Sunday’s outcome was about “people getting pet experience.”


“This is very well organized, and there are a lot of good vendors here,” Remijas said, wiping some sweat from his forehead. “The best part of this for me is meeting families that have come here and adopted dogs, and seeing how those puppies have grown up. People remember me from when they first took their dog home.”


Renee Johnson said she works as a family teacher at Mooseheart and that kids living there look forward each year to visiting the event.


“Kids I live with want to see the dogs, and we’ve had a long-standing requirement here regarding learning service hours,” Johnson said. “A lot of our kids volunteer with the shelter each week, and Anderson brings a lot of puppies over who are always welcome. Having this at Mooseheart also helps increase awareness.”


North Aurora’s Gail Rogers said her daughter learned about the Palooza event and talked her into coming over.


“We don’t have dogs, but when we moved in with our daughter we brought two cats and she already had two herself,” Rogers said. “I just love animals, and there are a lot of things to do and information, so this is just something good all around.”


Larry Mathias and his friend Bob Jaeger, who live in St. Charles and Geneva respectively, strolled the grounds shortly after the event opened saying that their wives were there to promote a book they had written about a rescue dog entitled “A Mile in My Paws.”


Mathias said he grew up on a farm with dogs and said they “are a big deal.”


“I’ve been involved in transporting rescue dogs the past four to five years, and we are expecting to hear about some from either Texas or Florida,” Mathias said. “There are too many animals out there, and these animals need care.”


Jaeger called Sunday’s offering “a good event” that he hoped would offer some carry over benefits.


“People need to take pets seriously and be kinder to them, and hopefully that will rub off in terms of people being kinder to each other,” he said.


One of the more popular events Sunday was a pet-owner lookalike contest, and Lexi Tierney, who was representing Orchard Road Animal Hospital, wasn’t about to miss out.


“I’m going home to get my dog that has a red coat that’s about the same color as my hair,” Tierney said as she raced to the parking lot. “I’m not going to miss this.”


*Story courtesy of The Beacon-News. To read the article online, visit their website.

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