It was a warm and sunny Saturday morning, perfect for adopting a canine companion from the Humane Society at "Paws in the Park". About 18 very happy dogs spent four hours in the smaller enclosure at the off-leash park playing and meeting their prospective adoptive parents.
Precious, Babe, George and Scruffy were just a few of the dogs waiting to be taken home by a loving guardian.
Yet, just having an open yard to run and play made the day for these dogs and the volunteers that saw a couple of them leave with new owners.
"It's so great for the dogs to get to run around," volunteer Gil Frederick said. Frederick is the president of the Humane Society Auxiliary and a member of the group, Paws in the Park, which co-sponsored the event.
Paws in the Park, a group that meets the first Monday of every month at the library, is the citizens group responsible for getting the off-leash park in Payson.
Each dog was adorned with a pink or blue kerchief, identifying whether it was male or female, as well as a name tag. They were all allowed to run freely except for Scruffy, who was on a long rope due to her exceptional skill as an escape artist. This docile, curly-haired Houdini with big brown eyes is a dog you'd never expect to have the agility her reputation demonstrates.
While other dogs played vigorously, one, a four-year old female lab-mix, waddled. Unlike many of the dogs whose rib-cages protruded, this good-natured pup was overfed. Several volunteers commented on how this sweet dog would benefit from someone who would put her on a regimen of light food and exercise.
Some people brought frisbees and balls and spent time playing with the dogs even though they didn't plan on adopting that day. Volunteers from the Humane Society and Paws in the Park quickly picked up after the dogs, keeping the grounds immaculate so that visitors didn't have to check the bottom of their shoes.
The original date for the event was the previous Saturday, but snow and mud made many think it was canceled.
Little did they know that some very dedicated volunteers took some of the dogs to the park anyway and three were adopted.
Pups in the Park is a way to allow people who are uncomfortable going to the shelter, to meet the dogs in need of homes.
In this quieter, less stressful environment, people can easily see several different dogs and watch how they interact with people, children and other dogs.
"A lot of people don't like to go to the shelter," Frederick said. "Here there is no barking and when you take them off the leash and let them run, it's magic. It exposes them to people who don't come to the shelter."
Paws in the Park volunteer, Lynn Canning, said that a few of the people she talked to were heading to the shelter.
"After they looked here, they went over to the shelter," Canning said.
Although there were a few tense moments between a couple of the dogs, there was no fighting and any of the shelter dogs that displayed obvious signs of aggression were not taken to the park.
Amy Von Somogyi, a tutor at the Rim Country Literacy Program, was the first one to take home a dog. Her choice, a furry brown cocker spaniel mix.
"I'm going to have to take this one," she said as her new companion laid comfortably in her arms.
Jaime Silva brought his three children, Joseph, Abby and A.J., to the park to check out the dogs available for adoption.
Although they did not take one home that day, the children had a great time playing and petting the dogs.
All the dogs featured at Pups in the Park were spayed or neutered, current on shots, and cost a mere $25. Three of the dogs were individually sponsored and cost only $10 to cover their rabies vaccine.
On top of the bargain price, adoptive parents got a bag of dog food, treats, and a bunch of coupons for grooming, training, and even a veterinary visit.
The Humane Society hopes to make Pups in the Park a monthly event.
For more information on Pups in the Park or to inquire about an available dog or cat, call the Humane Society at 474-5590.