Hundreds of dogs and their owners gathered in downtown Denison Saturday for the annual Bark and Paws event, which featured a beach-bash theme this year and a host of activities and treats for participants on four legs and their two-legged friends.


The celebration of all things K-9 began with a 5K, fun run and adoption drive hosted by the Denison Animal Welfare Group and went on to include many other activities, such as live music and dancing, wiener dog races, and an owner and dog look-a-like competition, all coordinated by Main Street Denison.


“We hope that everybody had a good time and that they got to celebrate with their dogs,” Main Street Director Donna Dow said.


Dow explained that Main Street and DAWG teamed up in recent years to expand the event. She said the added presence of the animal welfare group and the 5K in particular went a long way toward attracting new visitors.


“They brought it back bigger and stronger this year,” Dow said of the race. “It’s been a big success, and we feel like that adds to our crowds and it adds to the value for the vendors, too. And we think that’s partly why we had more vendors this year than ever before.”


DAWG President Stephanie Phillips said Bark and Paws is the agency’s biggest event of the year and critical fundraising opportunity. Phillips said while DAWG services 1,200 animals a year, the city of Denison has no other animal shelter and the organization’s current facility, housed in the old South Side fire station, has been maxed out.


“We get about 85 dogs each month, but we’ve only got 22 kennels,” Phillips said. “We don’t want to see any animal put down, just because we don’t have the space to hold it.”


Phillips said DAWG was well into the planning process for a new facility, which would feature 40 dog and 28 cat kennels. She said she hoped to raise in the neighborhood of $30,000 at Saturday’s event and that the future shelter would house the city’s animal control operations and have enough space for educational programs, meant to help the public better understand and care for animals.


“We want it all to be in one facility so we can serve all these animals and the community,” Phillips said.


Michelle McCullough and her dachshund Weenie Man attended this year’s Bark and Paws, but it was far from their first time at the event or to taste victory in the well-attended wiener dog race.


He’s won first or second place the last six years in a row,” McCullough said. “He’s just a fast little boy who loves his mama.”


Despite years of success, McCullough said Weenie man has never practiced for the competition, because he’s always out having fun and making others jealous of his laid-back lifestyle.


“He loves to kayak with us and he goes on camping trips with us, too,” McCullough said. “He just goes on vacation all the time.”


Phillips and Dow said they were already looking forward to next year’s Bark and Paws, but that every day between spent with a dog was reason enough to celebrate.


“I couldn’t imagine a life without dogs,” Phillips said. “They’re everything. They’re your companion, your comfort, they make you happy every day. They just add so much to our lives.”