His white hair fluffy and washed, he relaxed in the shade next to the duck pond at McClellan, enjoying a meet-and-greet with fellow Calhoun County residents.
The 180-pound Irish wolfhound unfolded himself to his full height, even taller than the Shetland ponies grazing nearby as he wagged his tail.
Eli was one of about 100 dogs at the third annual Bark in the Park Saturday, an event sponsored by the animal shelter at the Calhoun County Humane Society and other local pet rescues.
More adorable animal photos? You bet
“People can have fun with their dogs and learn about how to adopt,” organizer Shelly Hunt said. “It’s a fundraiser, and it helps increase awareness about animal adoption.”
Hundreds of people showed up for the hours-long event, which cost $5 per person to attend.
All of the proceeds go to the Humane Society’s animal shelter. Last year, Hunt said, the group raised about $3,000 from the Bark in the Park festivities.
Dogs of all shapes and sizes came to play, some participating in the adoptable pet parade, others trussed up like pumpkins and skeletons for the Halloween costume contest.
Fifteen-year-old Payton Comer, of Oxford, was there with her aunt’s mixed-breed pup named Sherlock Holmes.
Comer said the stout little dog got his name from the “mystery” surrounding his origins.
“Someone just dumped him in our yard one day,” Payton’s little brother explained.
Sherlock Holmes didn’t plan on entering any contest at Bark in the Park, Payton said, because he didn’t really know any tricks.
“Only if there’s one for the fattest dog; he’ll win that one,” the 15-year-old smirked.
Several local rescue centers had booths at the event, including volunteers from festival sponsors Hope’s Rescue, Rockin’ “P” Rescue and Southern Shih Tzu and Toy Breed Rescue.
Tammy Owens, founder of Toy Breed, said her center keeps about 100 rescue and foster dogs in its network.
Through her work, Owens has helped to shut down puppy mills and extract animals from owners with hoarding issues, as well as to pay for medical procedures for dogs with health problems.
“Knee surgeries and eye surgeries and stuff like that,” she explained.
Two Labrador-mix puppies that are being fostered by a woman affiliated with Owens’ rescue were stars of the adoptable pet parade.
Sasquatch and Small Stuff trotted pertly across the grass near the duck pond, showing off their bouncy ears and playful nature.
Kathy and Bill Beecham, owners of boxer-mix Sid and Head-To-Tail Pet Care in Oxford, said events like Saturday’s show how many area residents value animals.
“We’ve got to get more people to realize they’ve got to spay and neuter,” said Beecham, noting this is her second time attending Bark in the Park.
“When they have them, we try to make it to them,” she said of local festivities that allow dog-lovers to come together.
“I’m pleased with the turnout,” Hunt said. “It’s for the shelter and the rescues.”
Assistant Metro Editor Cameron Steele: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @CSteele_star.