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Humane Society’s annual carnival brings out the party animal in all of us

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DOGS don’t really care about each other’s hats, no matter what you’ve read in P.D. Eastman’s hilarious book.

Yet one aspect of the seminal preschool classic Go, Dog. Go! that has proved true is that dogs do love parties, evidenced by the wagging tails at the annual Humane Society of Greater Savannah Doggie Carnival.

HSGS’ legions of volunteers have organized another year of fun and frolic for four-legged and two-legged creatures for this Sunday, May 7, when hundreds of hounds and their beloved humans gather in Forsyth Park to mingle, enjoy delicious snacks and sniff each other’s nether regions (OK, the last part is for dogs only, unless it’s with mutual consent.)

Even though the pups may not have much of an opinion of who’s wearing what, that doesn’t mean humans don’t appreciate a good canine costume: Expect to see dachshunds sporting dashing coats, poodles with purses and snazzily-attired schnauzers.

Party games include the Doggie Derby—always a neck-and-neck race, until somebody gets distracted by an itch—and “let’s see who can be on their best behavior” sessions with a professional dog trainer. Those with opposable thumbs can aim for the target to dunk their favorite Savannah Derby Devils, and everyone wants a lickalicious smooch from Miss Zoe Dog’s Kissing Booth.

The generous ruffians at Woof Gang Bakery have sponsored all manner of healthy biscuits, though if you’re craving more sophisticated fare, you’ll want to sink your canines into something from the Gaslight Group, Kona Ice, Big Cheese and Molly McPherson’s food trucks. You must be at least three years old in dog years to partake in offerings from the beer tent.

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Unaccompanied humans are welcome, though they may find themselves leaving with information about HSGS and its many adorable, adoptable pets. Admission is free to the Doggie Carnival, though purchasing lots of activity tickets is what helps the Humane Society continue its mission “to better the lives of pets and people.”

“This is our biggest fundraiser of the year, and we rely so much on small, individual donations,” says Executive Director Michelle Thevenin, who joined the HSGS team in 2015.

Most folks know about the organization’s adoption options (peruse the dog, cat and occasional guinea pig profiles on the website or pay a visit for a face-to-face date.) Other favorite programs, like the literary Nuzzle Buddies (one of these days some kid is going to get a dog to read back to them) and the mutually beneficial Operation Hope that pairs Chatham County prison inmates with dogs to socialize and train stay afloat with funds from the carnival.

There are also new developments: Last year saw the ribbon cutting of a longheld dream for local animal advocates when Pet Fix Savannah opened in February of 2016, offering low-cost spay and neuter services for as low as $45. Thevenin estimates that the clinic has performed more than 6500 surgeries since, which has had a significant impact on lowering the animal population.

“It’s pretty incredible when you think of the exponential elements of those numbers,” she praises.

“For every litter of kittens and puppies we have prevented, there are thousands of unwanted pets that have not come into the world as a result.”

The Humane Society has also deepened its focus on keeping pets and their humans together. Many pets are surrendered for financial or behavioral reasons, and HSGS provides a safety net through a pet food pantry, training resources, low-cost vaccinations and vet care.

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“We’re really trying to bring basic care to people who haven’t had access from other means and be more proactive in keeping pets in homes where they’re loved,” says Thevenin, adding that this makes both emotional and economic sense.

“Prevention is cheaper and more effective than bringing animals to the shelter and trying to rehome them.”

Speaking of the shelter, the Sallie Mood facility recently received a rigorous spring sprucing with new, larger cat kennels and an improved flow to make it more welcoming and less confusing for animals both four- and two-legged.

Thevenin lauds the small-but-mighty HSGS staff and the legions of volunteers who clean the litter boxes, walk the dogs, update the website, run the “Pick of the Litter” Thrift Shop and clean up after Savannah’s biggest puppy party.

“It’s all about honoring that human-animal bond.”

A dog mom to three friendly shelter shepherds, Thevenin will be keeping the busiest, Darwin, from too much grazing at the treat tables at this Sunday’s carnival while she continues to promote HSGS’ year-round programs and services.

“We don’t just want to be good, we want to be great,” she promises.

“That’s what the people of Savannah and their pets deserve.”

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