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The sights and smells invigorated Tessi. She absorbed the attention from the other dogs and their people with an excitement that could only be topped by the many sample treats given to her. I imagine she thought she was in doggie heaven. Lots of People Tessi and I attended Woofstock in Toronto (considered the largest outdoor dog festival in North America) for the second time - last year was our first. Many exhibitors (more than 200 this year) push their wares and services in hopes of sales. This gives people a multitude of choices in food, toys, accessories and whatever else your dog may need or desire, or whatever you may fancy for your dog. Some exhibitors are there to raise public awareness of canine issues, along with hopes of receiving donations to support their causes. Lining the streets of the St. Lawrence Market Neighbourhood, the number of booths is almost overwhelming. The festival is a canine lover’s dream. Heat Drowns the Day My first quest, before setting out to spoil Tessi, was to find a cold beverage for myself, as the day was already heating up. Fresh water was put out for the animals at assorted booths. Tessi snubbed the offerings, I assumed, because of the floating saliva in the dishes. (Yet, she will comfortably drink from the ditches around our home.) She doesn’t like water much, only drinking it when necessary. Thankfully, I would find adequate sources of it as the day wore on. Before moving toward the food area for a pop, I hesitated at a table covered in cute doggy T’s. I often find doggy clothes are made only in small sizes, though Tessi’s size was included in this selection. These T-shirts were decorated in rock ’n’ roll themes, which made sense when I saw that the company’s name is Rock ‘n’ Roll K9. Thirty-five dollars is probably a typical price for a T-shirt in her size. I was on a budget, however, and would wait until the end of the day before deciding whether to buy a shirt or not. After leaving the Rock ‘n’ Roll K9 table, we passed a flurry of activity at a water station. Attendants were continually filling several small pools for the animals to cool off in. Tessi took one look at the fur floating on top of the water and turned away. I was not as choosy as to where I would get my refreshment. There were many food vendors to pick from; however, I stopped at the first one I came to. I made a mental note of the many food choices for when I’d return later for lunch. Contests I found a low wall on which to sit while I drank my deliciously cold pop. From my perch, I could see a stage being set up for contests that would run throughout the afternoon. The contests would include “Stupid Dog Trick” and “Best Costume” among others. When I finished my drink we were off to hunt for information, explore - and defy buying temptation. Trying to Keep Cool We passed the permanent fountain in Berczy Park, where the stage was situated. The fountain was filled with dogs - jumping in and out and swimming - anything to cool off. Tessi wanted nothing to do with this source of water either. Last year, she had hopped on the wall of the fountain. This year she wouldn’t let me get close, so we continued on. Checking It All Out I stopped at a booth sporting the name Poop Patrol Inc. The guy working there was promoting the group’s “Paw It Forward” program, which involves procuring donations of excess dog accessories from people and then passing these items on to needy dogs. Tessi and I walked by a variety of exhibitors. At Isle of Dogs, I could have bought a spa-like product made just for canines, if I had been so inclined. Neo Paws specializes in assorted safety accessories and products. Someday, when I try canoeing with Tessi, I’ll want to get a lifejacket for her, but that purchase would wait. I scooted by a pet cemetery company. I don’t want to think about that day yet. As we wandered, I found small amounts of fresh water for Tessi along with many sample treats. She happily gobbled up all that was offered to her with equal enthusiasm. I would never be able to decide what she liked best if I had to choose treats to buy. I stopped to chat with representatives of an organization eagerly trying to fight the banned pit bull law. Two pit bull-type ambassadors were there to interact with. Both dogs were sweethearts - Trina stayed in the background, while Wallace soaked up all the attention he could get. In the meantime, Tessi was given half a tube of a peanut butter-flavoured treat. Before moving on, I bought a T-shirt in support of their cause. I kept an eye out for water, as Tessi would probably be thirsty again. Signs posted at a few of the side streets directed dog owners to water stations. On one quiet side street I found a small fountain with a shower-like spigot giving an endless supply of fresh water. Tessi was finally able to have a proper thirst-quenching drink. Another source of refreshment I eventually came upon was through a company called Java du Mutt. I took the small powder samples of Waggalatte (a doggy version of a latte) offered and decided to buy a bowl of premixed for 50¢. Since it's a hot beverage, I had the guy add ice. Tessi may not drink a lot of water; however, she loves anything beef or chicken flavoured, which is basically what this refreshment is. After looking through a few more booths, we returned to the small fountain. On the way back to the crowd, I noticed a woman sitting with her dog in the shade. I stopped to read the writing on the T-shirt the sparsely furred animal was wearing. That led to a chat with the woman. I found out that her dog came with a few health problems when she was adopted a couple of years ago. The woman’s veterinarian had eventually found the cause to be her pet’s thyroid. I could tell there was a lot of love between the two, as the woman was dedicated to getting her dog’s health back on track. Dock Divers I found the dock diving competition taking place on another side street. The dog being enticed to jump was having a hard time finding the nerve. Everyone applauded enthusiastically when he finally did, not caring that he didn’t dive very far. While watching, I forgot about Tessi. She wandered under the ropes and got underfoot of the judge. I was humbled when the judge asked me to please watch my dog. I took a few pictures of the animals while they competed, and then Tessi and I moved on. I noticed a few photography exhibitors. Some of these creative people took their talent a step further than basic photography, such as the company Memories in Stone, which engrave dog portraits in stone. After a couple of hours of wandering, and discovering unique items and services, I made my way back to the food area to buy a fajita for lunch. It was very messy, but delicious. Tessi busied herself by catching my droppings. Like most dogs when it comes to food, she was happy to clean up my mess. When You Can’t Take Them With You About an hour after lunch, Tessi and I had had enough of the heat. One of the last exhibitors we visited before leaving was Lisa, who owns the Happy Tails Pet Resort & Camp in the Muskoka region. The camp features a huge wooded area for canines to express ultimate freedom. Her business even offers a shuttle that will pick up the animals in Toronto and take them to camp. I plan to travel to the Muskoka area for a few days this summer, so I will most likely check out the camp. A Subway Ride From Lisa’s booth, we walked the few blocks back to the subway station. As I usually do when I go to Toronto, I had parked my car at Yorkdale Mall and had ridden the subway downtown. Leashed dogs are allowed, during non-rush hour times, on the city’s transit. I could relax and look over my few purchases and the bag of freebies and samples I ended up with. For the first time on the subway system, I saw another dog at the other end of the subway car. Like Tessi, he or she was sleeping. I wondered if the dogs were dreaming of treats and activities enjoyed at the festival made just for them.

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(c) Cheryl Smyth, 2008

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