Greenspring residents put their best paw forward during the third annual Pet Parade on Wednesday, giving canine cuties control of the runway while their two-legged companions served as escorts and leash candy.
In the hallway outside the stage area, many were thinking of the less fortunate pets and pet owners along the Gulf Coast, stranded and starving three weeks after Hurricane Katrina.
"We hear all these stories about pets without homes all through that area," said Ian Brown, honorary chairman for the event, while watching pampered pooches await their turn on the runway. "It's so important to do this. Our pets are so important to us," he said.
Inside, Anne Wilson and her miniature dachshund Iris, the first resident and first dog at Greenspring, paraded through the room as cameras snapped and residents clapped.
The Pet Parade, organized by resident Thelma Stone-Ledger, was inspired by all the dogs she'd see walk by her apartment at Greenspring, a residential community for retired adults. Although not a dog owner herself, Ledger said she knew how much she enjoyed seeing the dogs and figured other residents would like the chance to see their furry neighbors.
"This is the biggest show we've had," she said after 25 entrants had the chance to strut their stuff. "Most of us had dogs or other pets as children. This parade makes so many people laugh and be happy."
Whether those with pets have more fun that those who simply enjoy watching the dogs have more fun, Ledger said she's not sure. "Maybe some people who live here are afraid of dogs. Maybe if they see how well behaved they are, maybe this will help them not be afraid," she said.
SERVING AS master of ceremonies, Brad Hibbs enjoyed the opportunity to tell the residents a little history on each owner and dog as they took their walk of fame.
"This is great fun," he said, wearing a tuxedo for the event. "This is a win-win for everyone who participates. It's a simple event but everyone here loves it."
While miniature dachshunds, bichon frises and other small dogs dominated the show, Maisie, a bearded collie, stole many people's hearts.
Maisie's owners, Kay and Paul McCurdy, helped to found the Dogs of Greenspring group, which "gets together to share ideas and information on training and recreation and rules for having a dog here," Kay McCurdy said. "We're fortunate the Greenspring lets us have our dogs here, so we do our best to convince owners to have responsibility and act very respectfully," she said.
Greenspring also has a pet therapy group, McCurdy said, in which specially trained dogs make visits to residents who sign up to see the dogs and their owners.
"We go to the assisted and skilled recovery facilities to visit the residents," she said. "A number of pets have been through some kind of temperament training, so they'll go from room to room to see the residents who would like a visit. They sign up for the dogs, but I think they like to see the people just as much," she said.
Patting Maisie's gray and white head, McCurdy said it's the love of pets and the way pets love unconditionally that make them such a welcome sight. "It's the same thing that makes us want pets as children. Pets allow us to continue to have comfort and companionship. They'll love you no matter what," McCurdy said. "We've had Maisie since she was a puppy. She's giving us a good time and we're reciprocating."