central bark

The volunteers of Friends of Destin Dog Park plan to march in Saturday's Destin Christmas parade.

But group leader Barbara Telford encourages owners and their dogs to join the pup procession.

“A lot of people around here have large dogs and just love to decorate them for Christmas, so it’s a good opportunity for them to do that and for us to promote the dog park,” Telford said.

While watching all of the dogs in the parade is adorable in itself, Telford said her favorite part is when she walks around and takes photographs of the pets.

“Everyone loves to see pictures of dogs,” she said.

The Friends of Destin Dog Park group was created in 2014 by the late Nancy Weidenhamer and a group of dedicated volunteers, including Telford.

“I was one of her lead volunteers … towards the end, I kinda stepped up and took over but Nancy was always in the background,” Telford said. “I really wish she was still with us but we kept her memory alive by naming the dog park after her.”

The group has been around since the beginning of the dog park, helping to raise money for the park and its amenities. One of their biggest fundraisers is its annual Destin Pooch Palooza.

Previously held in November, the next Pooch Palooza will instead take place on March 23 to avoid parking and other issues due to scheduling conflicts with sporting events.

As usual, Pooch Palooza will include vendors, raffles, a “Shy of a Mile Mutt March” and agility demonstrations.

“We have food trucks, including the Big Red Truck coming, and I’m really excited about that,” Telford said. “There will be a silent auction and raffles and there will be free T-shirts for the first 50 participants of the mutt march and prizes for the first- and last-place contestants.”

Telford said the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office K-9 group will hold a demonstration, and Pets Behave will showcase agility skills and the latest training techniques.

Volunteers will also be taking donations for the Panhandle Animal Welfare Society, which will have its vet van at the event to perform $5 rabies vaccinations and $10 microchipping.

Donations are always welcome.

“We ask our visitors to bring donations to our event for PAWS whether it be collars, leashes, dog food, cleaning supplies, whatever they want,” the group leader said.

After attendees finishing browsing the local vendor’s booths and watching the demonstrations, Telford said a majority of dog owners hang out at the spacious dog park.

“I didn’t even think about that the first year and at one point I was so busy making sure everything was running smoothly for the vendors and shows, I glanced over at the large dog park and there were hundreds, I mean hundreds, I’m not even exaggerating, I’ve never seen so many dogs in the large dog park,” she said. “Everybody was getting along and having a great ole’ time.”

All in all, Telford said she’s thrilled about next year’s event.

“It’s just a fun afternoon that you can bring your dog to.”

For more information about the Destin Pooch Palooza, visit the Friends of Destin Dog Park’s Facebook page.