Bark in the Park a Howling Good Time

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Published on July 21, 2010 with No Comments

by Carl Kurek

Every dog has its day – or at least a Saturday.

For the past three years, one Saturday in July has been set aside to make sure that dogs around Northwest Indiana receive their due.

This past weekend, there were four canines in particular who really had reason to wag their tails at the third annual Bark in the Park at Thomas Centennial Park in Chesterton.

Echo, a 4-year-old basset hound, strutted around the park in his cowboy outfit with his owner, Rachael Bushue, 13, of Chesterton.

Yes, the blue cowboy hat atop his head and the orange squirt gun holstered to his side were enough to earn him the award for Best Dressed dog at the park.

 “We got him the cowboy hat a few years ago, and he looks really cute in it,” Bushue said.

Gizmo, a 2-year old dachshund, raced past the finish line of the Wiener Dog Races  with a winning time of 1.3 seconds. Gizmo has been in three previous wiener dog races, placing third in his first two and first in the last race he participated in at the Canine Country Club in Valparaiso just over a month ago.

“I think it’s a fun idea, and Gizmo is just naturally good at it,” owner Chantel Craig of Lake Station said. “He also seems to enjoy socializing with other dogs at these things.”

Some dogs got lucky in different ways.  CJ,  a female greyhound, came to the park as a rescue and left the park as a family member. Tama Chandler and her daughter, Belle, were excited to be taking CJ to meet the 14-year-old rescued greyhound that was waiting for them at home.

CJ was at the park with Great Lakes Greyhound, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to finding responsible homes for retired racing greyhounds before she snagged the hearts of a loving family.

“We’ve been here every year,” Brian Gauthier, a Great Lakes Greyhound volunteer, said. “We’re a dog adoption group, so Bark in the Park works perfect for us.”

The results of another contest held at the park Saturday would prove to be a positive statement for a breed that has been often misunderstood. The award for the Prettiest Dog, or Natural Beauty, contest went to Tucker, a laidbackm 1 1/2-year-old pit bull.

“We were just walking around and somebody said, ‘You should go and put him in the contest,’ so we did,” owner Kim Young of Valparaiso said.

“It’s great, not bad for a pit bull,” Young said with a smile. “He’s been such a great dog.”

Owners and animal lovers alike also took advantage of the opportunity to socialize, to promote organizations and products and to educate others about animal issues.

Laurie Clark of Dawg N’ Suds, a mobile dog salon that offers its services to LaPorte County, Valparaiso and Chesterton, was on location, giving the public a chance to view her van – or salon – and also giving pet owners the chance to book an appointment.

“I’ve probably booked about six appointments already today,” Clark said. “It’s our first time being here, but this is a pretty good event.”

One of the many organizations that set up booths at the Bark in the Park was the Independent Cat Society, a no-kill cat shelter located in Westville. The ICS also brought Sarge, the donation dog, with them. That’s right — a dog that works for cats and has been doing so for about a year.

Connie Szawari, president of the ICS, said that the group came out to get some exposure with the public.

“We try to be proactive. We know you have to get out there and get your hands dirty,” Szawari said. “We’re a 33-year-old shelter, so we have a pretty solid volunteer base, but we’re always accepting new ones, especially for foster opportunities, since we don’t use euthanasia.”

Terri Scott of Defend the Dogs and Diane Richards of PetShop Puppies were teaming up, as they usually do, and doing their best to spread information about puppy mills, honing in on the problem in Indiana.

 “If we don’t stop people from buying dogs at pet stores, we’re not going to end puppy mills,” Scott said.

Scott and Richards were handing out literature and urging people to contact Sen. Richard Lugar and Rep. Brad Ellsworth to express their support for new federal puppy mill legislation known as Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety Acts (PUPS). Neither organization lists a phone number, but more information can be found at, or

The Chesterton Police Department was also in attendance Saturday, trying to raise funds to bring a K-9 unit to their ranks. Porter County Police Officer Scott Cornelison and his partner Nicky, a 4-year old German shepherd, came out to give the public demonstrations of what a K-9 unit can do.

After getting out of the training suit that allowed Nicky to show how a K-9 unit member can subdue a criminal, Chesterton Patrolman Eric Herbert explained the benefits of having a K-9 corps.

“They will reduce drugs in the community, and they’re a great source for finding criminals and burglars,” Herbert said. “It’s a pretty pricey program though, so we need to raise funds first.”

Donations can be made at the Chesterton Police Department, 726 Broadway,  Chesterton.

For more information about the Bark in The Park event, or about any of the organizations participating, visit, or contact the Duneland Business Initiative Group at  926-9900.

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