Dogs of every size and breed – many sharing costumes similar to their humans – turned out for a special holiday gathering, A Very Furry Christmas, on Sunday in Oakdale.
The Dec. 3 fundraising event was put on by the Oakdale Shelter Pet Alliance, which supports the Oakdale Animal Shelter. The shelter services the communities of Oakdale, Riverbank and Escalon.
Serving as coordinator was Laurie Fanjul, who has been involved with the OSPA for years.
“We have been around since 2004 but we have been shrinking,” she said of the membership. “We just about decided we were going to go out of business at the end of this year.”
But the holiday season brought out some new, fresh ideas and, working with the Oakdale Police Department – which oversees the animal shelter – Fanjul said the framework of the Very Furry Christmas came together.
It began more as an informational event but then expanded to include some vendor booths, photos with Santa, a Smooch the Pooch booth, music by Owen Walker, food and the fun costume contest.
“It kind of has evolved a little bit with the dog contest,” Fanjul said, pleased with the decision to host the contest and glad to see the number of people that entered with their dogs.
A panel of judges that included Oakdale City Councilman Bob Amaral, District 1 Stanislaus County Supervisor Buck Condit, Oakdale Mayor Cher Bairos, Bubbles and Bows pet spa owner Stephanie Vargas and Chelsie Stilwell of the Oakdale Police Department observed the pet parade and costumes. From a Maltese that endured food coloring to make green fur worthy of a little Grinch to a dog wearing reindeer antlers, there were lots of fun and amusing entries.
Some of the dogs in the contest, in fact, were those that had been adopted from the local shelter.
Fanjul said when the OSPA decided to move forward with the fundraiser they were pleasantly surprised that the fees for use of the Oakdale Town Plaza venue were waived for them.
“My team has just been great,” added Fanjul. “Everybody took a piece of it.”
She also pointed to the involvement of Love Oakdale coordinator Lisa Kjeldgaard in helping get vendors lined up and providing some expertise and support.
“She helped us bring it in to more focus,” said Fanjul.
There were prize packages for the top three costumed dogs and their owners. Third place received a Galaxy Theater movie basket and a Target gift card; second place received the Galaxy movie basket and a one-hour private training session through Bone-a-Fide dog training, while the first place prize was $250 provided by Love Oakdale.
Third place went to Jennifer Haas with her dog, Stevie Nicks. Second went to Andrea Burr, who was dressed as Dorothy and had her dog Holly in the basket as Toto, while her dog Fae was wearing a mane to fill the part of the Cowardly Lion from The Wizard of Oz. First place went to Cindy Lou Who – better known as eight-year-old Carolina Beccera – and her dog, Estrilla, as the Grinch.
Haas said her dog, Stevie Nicks, was a shelter dog that she adopted a few months ago.
“She just loves to go out,” Haas said of Stevie Nicks feeling comfortable around all the other dogs at the plaza on Sunday. “She’s from the Oakdale Shelter, we got her four months ago and I’m so grateful for the shelter, we’re just happy to be here.”
Fanjul said she couldn’t have been more pleased.
“We didn’t expect it to be a huge fundraiser; it was more like an awareness of us and the shelter and bring a positive atmosphere,” she explained, adding that there were some animals from the shelter at the event available for adoption.
“Something like this could grow every year,” she said. “It was fun, light hearted, people brought their dogs … I think it turned out great.”