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Barktoberfest: St. Thomas Goes to the Dogs

Oct. 26, 2008 — "Woofs" of all timbre carried across the water at Bolongo Bay Beach Resort Sunday afternoon, as the seventh-ever Barktoberfest hosted hundreds of canines — and their companions — for fun and fund raising.
And at one point several dozen rubber duckies took a turn for the unexpected when, instead of "racing" toward the beach, they decided to head out to sea. The racing ducks held big prizes for those who paid from $5 to $20 to enter a duckie in the hope that theirs would yield $500 or, in the case of the children's ducks, win them a swim with the sea lions at Coral World Marine Park on St. Thomas's East End.
Eventually new rules were set and the winners rewarded. In the end, the unidentified big winner turned his $500 back to the Humane Society.
Meanwhile, the doggie companions ducked between the rain drops to view kissing, costume and cutest contests, among others, all to raise money for the Humane Society of St. Thomas.
And raise money and membership it did.
Andrea Martin, secretary of the society's board, said she signed up at least 20 new members during the course of the day.
"Everybody's excited about the new Animal Care Campus," Martin said. "Especially when I told them members can use the dog walk," an area that will be set aside where dogs can have a romp together.
Many areas of the country support dog parks — also known as "bark parks" — where the animals can socialize unfettered by leashes. This will be the first such area on St. Thomas.
It is hoped the new animal campus, which has been a labor of love for and will be named after society President Joe Aubain, will be up and housing animals by February.
Along with brand-spanking-new kennels and cat houses, the facility — across from Cost-U-Less on the Weymouth Rhymer Highway, on land donated by the Lockhart family — will have an education center, walking trails and veterinarian services.
It will also be home to a flea market, which will be open for more regular hours than the one at the current shelter.
Barktoberfest is one of the fund raisers held throughout the year that helps support the many services offered by the Humane Society. The other major fund-raising event, known commonly as "the Doggie Ball," is traditionally held close to Valentine's Day in February.
Last year the event netted $10,000 for the society, said Barktoberfest chairwoman Stacey Alverado. She expects the tally to be even greater this year, thanks to sponsors Yacht Haven Grande, Bolongo Bay and Bellows International and Corona beer.
The doggie contest winners were:
— Look Alike: Smith & Wesson;
— Fastest Dog, with a time of 4.2 seconds: Cruzan;
— Best Kisser: Lucy, a sleek black rescue dog from the Humane Society;
— Best Costume; Saki & Max, who dressed as John McCain and Barack Obama; and
— Cutest Island Dog, Daisy.
Alverado said there was really stiff competition, particularly for the cutest island dog.
A bidding war for a couple of last-minute auction items finished the day on a high note for the society, Alverado said.
Anyone who was there Sunday afternoon, would have noted one other outstanding feature of the event: Sergio Ruano, the emcee, talked non-stop, keeping the crowd amused for six hours — despite a few major downpours.
"He was fabulous," Alverado said.
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