CREST HILL – Those needing proof that man is dog’s best friend need look no further than the fourth annual Woofapalooza, held June 8 at Siegel’s Cottonwood Farm in Lockport.
"This is the best weather and best turnout we’ve had,” owner Susie Siegel said.
Every dog attending had its day – from Red, the search and rescue bloodhound for New Lenox Fire Protection District, to Kimora, a 6-year-old malti-huahua who won the smallest dog contest. At 2 ½ pounds, she was quite a difference from the largest dog there, a Great Dane named Phantom, at 145 pounds.
And let’s not forget Kitty, a black lab mix in a pink tutu who won the pie eating contest.
“Soon as I saw it was pumpkin, I knew,” said Kitty’s owner, Brian Gutke of Joliet. “She has a sensitive stomach and we often give her pumpkin."
Gutke didn’t fare as well when it came time for humans to chow down. Marc Burchell, of Joliet, won that competition.
Gander, a service dog, attended with his human, Len Hodge of Chicago. Hodge served in Vietnam. Hodge said Gander "saved his life." Yes, Gander can turn off lights and open doors when Hodge has intermittent paralysis, but he also is a big help with post-traumatic stress disorder.
On this day, Gander was pouting just a little because he wanted to play ball and Hodge waned to explain the concept of a service dog.
“He’s a Labradoodle from Freedom Service Dogs, out of a prison in Denver,” Hodge said. “Gander has 250,000 followers on Facebook.”
Red, the aforementioned bloodhound, showed people how good he is at search and rescue with multiple finds. Red's handler, Ryan Mallary, a firefighter-paramedic, said Red was a rescue who was found by the New Lenox firefighters.
“He lives full-time at the firehouse and howls every time a new shift comes in,” Mallary said.
Another plus: Red loves children.
“He can be petted all day long," Mallary said.
Part of the day's proceeds – about $500 – will be donated to Rescue Warriors, a rescue/shelter in Vernon Hills, where Kaity Siegel, manager, adopted a Rottweiler puppy just three weeks ago, Kaity said.
"They rescue tons of puppies from puppy mills. Mine actually came from Oklahoma," Kaity said. "They loved that it was going to live on a farm."