Solaris waits patiently for her Chick-fil-A chicken nuggets. She calmly sits between her owners, Becky and Al Petrusky, while they chat. Her long, cotton-white fur blows gracefully in the sharp wind as she lifts her nose into the air to get a whiff of her treats. Parents bring their children up to pet Solaris (and her sister Sydnie Jolene) and are in awe of the 75-pound gentle giant. A little girl lies down beside Solaris and wraps her arms around the giant ball of fur, burying her face in Solaris’s chest. She can’t get enough of the Great Pyrenees pooch, similar to Solaris’ owners.
Solaris was owner-surrendered to the Texas Great Pyrenees Rescue (TGPR) as a pup. “She was too adorable to resist, like all Great Pyrenees pups are,” Becky says. She demanded a lot of attention and time to make sure she was socialized, house trained and able to release her energy daily. Her owners surrendered her to TGPR knowing that she would find someone to give her the time she needed and deserved. That’s just what happened December 2012 when she became a member of the “Petrusky Pack” and found her forever home with their three other Great Pyrenees: Sydnie Jolene, Skylander (Sky) and Sanger Boy.
Solaris and her owners look forward to representing the Dog Days of Denton in 2014, as Solaris has been named spokesdog for the event. This year will mark the 21st year for Dog Days and will surely be a “tail” to remember.
Each year, the Dog Days of Denton festival includes different activities for dogs and people to enjoy. The Canine Couture Costume Contest, Texas Heat Flyball, the Dallas Agility Working Group (D.A.W.G) agility course, pet tricks and dog singing are just some examples. Vendors set up booths so owners can purchase snazzy swag for man’s best friend. The Cool Zone is a cherished part of the festival with a chilled area for dogs and people to rest.
A Spokesdog represents the festival each year. The Spokesdog contest came along in the second year and is still an important part of the festival today. Solaris is the spokesdog for 2014 and her theme is the “Canine Tooth Fairy.” Becky chose the theme for Solaris as a play on the word ‘canine’ for human and dog ‘canine’ teeth (also called ‘eye teeth’ for humans) and for personal reasons as well. “I had to begin dental work at a very young age, which honestly created a lot of negative experiences for me,” Becky says. “With that in mind, I am hoping that when kids meet Solaris in her crown and fairy wings, they will remember by association that keeping your teeth healthy is not only fun, but going to the dentist will be a soft and fuzzy experience.”
Dr. Norman Pomerance, a practicing dentist in Denton, helps tremendously with supplies for Solaris’ theme. He supplies Becky with doggy bags of toothbrushes (Clifford the Big Red Dog toothbrushes, of course), toothpaste and coloring books to hand out to children. If the children can tell Becky and Solaris one way to keep their own teeth clean and a way to keep their dog’s teeth clean, they get a doggy bag filled with the goodies. Pomerance is an avid supporter of the Dog Days of Denton, rescue efforts and dental care to those in need.
“I have been in animal rescue for more than 35 years. It has been my passion, either through personally adopting dogs and cats, providing funds to animal rescue organizations, promoting animal rescue at my dental office or just helping out at a rescue booth during one of the many animal festivals that take place in Denton,” Pomerance says.
Education has become a substantial factor for the Dog Days of Denton festival. “We’ve started to focus a little more on the educational aspect, responsible pet ownership, adopting from shelters rather than puppy mills, things like that,” says Kevin Lechler, coordinator of Dog Days of Denton along with Christine Gossett. The festival includes educational events such as demonstrations of puppy CPR and informing pet owners on how to recognize heat exhaustion and heat stroke in dogs. Gossett hopes to continue building an educational presence at the festival. “Our goal for next year is to have even more educational demonstrations and speakers,” she states. funds to animal rescue organizations, promoting animal rescue at my dental office or just helping out at a rescue booth during one of the many animal festivals that take place in Denton,” Pomerance says.
Dog Days of Denton has humble roots, starting as a two hour festival on the square 21 years ago. “It started as a true dog days of summer,” says Gossett, smiling about the fact that the festival was originally in August, typically the hottest month in Texas. The festival was used as a promotion to bring people downtown to the square and to Denton. It was later moved to the weekend after Memorial Day to avoid the scorching temperatures of August. Dog Days of Denton was a part of the Denton Main Street Association until seven years ago when it became its own non-profit organization.
People without dogs are encouraged to come enjoy the festival and see the events and vendor booths, too. There are plenty of exciting activities going on to please a crowd. People are encouraged to bring friendly, socialized dogs to the festival. All dogs must be on a leash and up-to-date on vaccines. A wide variety of booths offer treats for sale, a great take-away for shyer pups that opted to skip the festival and stay home this year.
With an expected attendance of 5,000 to 6,000 people over the two-day period (approximately up to 800 at any given time), it is clear that the festival has grown tremendously since its quiet beginnings on the square. Dog Days of Denton is the original pet festival of Texas and wouldn’t be possible without the help of the gracious people who whole-heartedly care about the event and the special relationship between humans and canines. “Without sponsorships and volunteers we would not be able to make this possible,” Gossett says appreciatively.