While Athens may be home of the Georgia Bulldogs, a different kind of bark rang through the streets of the Classic City on the afternoon of Sunday, Oct. 14. Over a hundred dogs and their handlers from around the Athens area paraded from Chase Street to Barber Street, in costume.
The parade and canine costume contest is a fundraising event for local group Athenspets, an organization that provides care to animals taken into Athens-Clarke County Animal Control that the county cannot provide, like heartworm medication. Boo-le-Bark is one of the organization’s largest events throughout the year and it takes all year to plan.
“It takes a lot of planning — we actually will start planning for next year’s parade next month,” said Ashley Short, board member of Athenspets and member of the planning committee for Boo-le-Bark. “It’s a great fundraiser for Athenspets, but more importantly, it’s a good way to bring the community together over a love of dogs in costumes.”
Decked out in wigs or various character outfits from pop culture to food, canines pranced through the streets bringing a smile to most spectators as they walked past. Whether it was Elvis making his way down the road or Wonder Woman soaring through the street, each dog brought their own originality to the event.
What made the spectacle even more entertaining was the matching costumes of their handlers, most matching the theme of their pet’s outfits. This year is the first time Athenspets put on a contest and the winner’s originality was nothing short of spectacular.
The first Boo-le Bark “Best Overall” winner was an Athens bichon frisé named Jackson, who dressed as Oscar the Grouch from “Sesame Street.” His owner, Brenda Vaughn, took weeks to decorate a float for Jackson to sit in in the shape of a garbage can, with his fur dyed a shade of green. Vaughn even made a costume herself dressed as Big Bird.
“[For the contest] we got in line, and we had to do a little parade through the parking lot,” Vaughn said. “Then [Athenspets] came and gave us a sign and said, ‘Hurry up, you’re the grand marshall. Get in front of the parade.’”
Once the parade was over everyone gathered in an open parking lot filled with treats for both dogs and humans alike. Food trucks like Holy Crepe and Kona Ice lined the walls surrounding the perimeter of the space, while water bowls for pets were located at different stations for each pooch who came to spectate or participate in the parade. There were booths from the community ranging from handmade dog treats like “Oscar’s Bites” to organizations like “Java Joy,” which offered $2 cups of cold brew or hot coffee.
As live music rang out through the background noise of the event to the tune of “Good Vibrations,” canines and their families met others throughout the community with a shared love for dogs. For some of the younger pet owners, the festivities included face painting and pumpkin decorating to celebrate the beginning of fall.
Some of the locals at the parade actually met their pet through Athenspets, and felt like it was calling them back.
“Gordo was actually a rescue from Athenspets earlier this year so I figured it would be a good way to show, ‘Hey, rescue dogs are great,’ you know,” said local Haley Faulkner, who dressed up her dog, Gordo, as a hamburger for the occasion.
People from all over the community joined together in the cause. Whether people came to spectate or participate, Athenspets was triumphant in its third year of Boo-le-Bark.
“Everyone is mad at people nowadays, and it gives us a chance to come together for a while and not think about anything that’s going on in the world ‚— [to] just enjoy dogs in costumes and raise money for a great organization,” Short said.