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October 20, 2008

Grab Your Invisible Dog for a Virtual Walk

By: Daryl L. Skaradzinski

To mark its three-year anniversary, and recognize the number of animals it has placed in permanent, loving homes, Companion Animal Resource and Adoption Center (CARAC), located in the upper level at Southridge Mall, 5300 S 76th St., Greendale is holding a “Barkfest” and Virtual Dog Walk 7 a.m.-noon, Sunday, October 12.

Held at the mall’s Center Court, the “Barkfest” features pancakes, sausage links, orange juice and coffee. Cost is $5 a person in advance, $6 the day of the event and seniors pay only $5. The “Barkfest” will also include a raffle and auction to benefit CARAC.

“The Virtual Dog Walk portion of the event is a fun, creative spin on the traditional dog walk,” said Amy Rowell, executive director of CARAC. “Because our event is indoors, there would have been many more restrictions on allowing dogs at the event.”

“Since dogs aren't allowed in the mall, we decided going ‘virtual’ made the most sense,” explained Robin Barry, a CARAC volunteer and “Barkfest” event chairwoman. “So all walkers will receive an “invisible dog” leash, like the ones you're used to seeing at local fairs, to walk around the mall.”

“This way, people can socialize with each other, participate in all aspects of the event, and still get home with plenty of time to walk their live dog,” said Rowell. “And clean up will be much easier! The only ‘oops stations’ will be for the humans who drizzle too much syrup on their pancakes,” she joked.

“Since this is the first year of the event, we really want to raise awareness of CARAC's mission and raise some money to help us continue our work serving Milwaukee's stray animal population,” said Barry. Raising funds, the never-ending need to find permanent, caring homes for stray companion animals and educating the community about CARAC are its biggest challenges, she said.

CARAC’s mission is to place homeless animals from the greater Milwaukee area into loving, permanent homes as well as to provide community outreach programs in order to secure a better future for all companion animals.

“Basically, we are committed to saving and serving unclaimed strays from animal control agencies as well as coordinating programs that will assist in raising the standard of care and consideration for companion animals throughout the greater Milwaukee area through humane education and spay/neuter initiatives,” explained Rowell.

“It is important to help people understand the importance of spay/neutering their companion animals, the positive impact of exercise, play and training on the health and behavior of their companion animals, and the value of having a companion animal as part of your family,” added Barry. “We hope, through the visibility of this and other events, to raise awareness of the number of stray animals in Milwaukee that need new homes and the benefits of adopting a companion animal through a rescue organization like CARAC.”

The Virtual Dog Walk will take place in the mall – a popular gathering place for walkers – with one lap around the upper or lower level equal to a half-mile. Walkers can choose their distance to walk and are asked to raise money for CARAC through pledges and sponsors. Prizes will be awarded to walkers who raise the most pledges.

Registration for the Virtual Dog Walk starts at 7 a.m. at CARAC and can also be done online at www.companionanimal.org/barkfest08.htm. Walkers can also set up an online site to collect pledges electronically. The walk itself is from 8 - 10:30 am. Registration is $25/person or $40/family. Individual registration includes one “Barkfest” ticket, a virtual dog and a t-shirt. Family registration includes two “Barkfest” tickets, a virtual dog and two t-shirts.

For more information, visit www.companionanimal.org or call 414 421-8881.

Daryl L. Skaradzinski and his wife Anne share their home with three dogs. He's General Manager of the Milwaukee Post newspaper, enjoys traveling, camping with their pets, hot, spicy foods and cold beers and is an avid Packers fan.

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