The No Walk Dog Walk will have contests for largest dogs, this dog won the contest at a previous dog walk. submitted photo
by Joe Schulz
Each fall, during Ripon’s Septemberfest celebration, pet owners dress up their dogs to enjoy a pet parade up and down Watson Street.
The annual tradition, which is hosted by the Green Lake Area Animal Shelter (GLAAS), has become one of the organization’s most successful fund-raisers. Last year’s event brought in about $18,000.
Participants are asked to collect donations for the shelter, known as “pledges,” and the top-pledge earners are awarded prizes. The event also features other awards for the smallest dog, largest dog, best dog trick, best kisser, best tail wagger and best costume.
This year, however, there will be no dog walk through downtown Ripon because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We as an organization felt that the risks of hosting the event were too great this year because it is our biggest event of the year,” Shelter Manager Janine Rubeck said of the decision to cancel. “We love putting it on and people love coming to it, but the risks of putting it on outweigh the benefits. If one person gets sick at the dog walk, it wouldn’t be worth it.”
Janine Rubeck, shelter manager for the Green Lake Area Animal Shelter, holds a dog in the shelter’s visiting room, where folks looking to make an adoption can meet an animal before they take it home. submitted photo
Instead, GLAAS is hosting the virtual “No Walk Dog Walk” Saturday, Sept. 19 via Facebook Live.
Leading up to the day of the event, the shelter will collect photos and videos from pet owners that it will compile and present in a video presentation.
GLAAS also is asking participants to collect donation pledges. Fund-raising materials and registration forms must be turned in by Sept. 19 at 10 a.m. to be eligible for prizes. Submissions can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, or sent to the shelter via Facebook Messenger.
The video presentation will announce pledge winners and awards for contest participants, selected from the photo and video submissions.
“It’s an experiment because we’ve never done anything like this, so I’m trying to tweak things as we go along,” Rubeck said. “It’ll be a fun little adventure.”
She felt that hosting the event on Facebook would make it accessible to most people. Those who do not have access to the social media platform or the internet are encouraged to call the shelter to participate.
“If somebody is not on Facebook and they don’t want to get on Facebook, get in touch with me and we’ll figure out how they can still participate,” Rubeck said.
In a year without a pandemic, she noted OnEdge Photography sets up a booth where it offers pet photos during the Septemberfest event.
This year, OnEdge will be offering “drive-through” photography services in its parking lot, where pet owners can get photos of their four-legged family members the same day as the No Walk Dog Walk.
“We wanted to somehow make sure that they were still incorporated into the event and that people still had the opportunity to get their dog’s picture taken that day,” Rubeck said. “I know one woman that comes by the booth every year like clockwork.”
While the GLAAS is doing everything it can to maintain the dog walk tradition virtually, Rubeck noted that in terms of services the shelter wasn’t severely impacted by the pandemic.
In March, the shelter was deemed to be an “essential service,” meaning it was allowed to remain open during the Safer at Home order.
“Here at the shelter, we’ve always tried to do things by appointment, whether it be adoptions by appointment, animal intake by appointment [or] nail trims by appointment,” Rubeck said. “It really didn’t change that much in how we offer our services.”
Inside the shelter, masks are mandatory to prevent COVID-19 from spreading inside the facility.
“As shelter manager, I have a responsibility for the safety of my staff [and] my volunteers,” Rubeck said.
During the Safer at Home order, she noted pet adoptions increased significantly.
“I think people were home and thought, ‘I’m home and I’m lonely, I’ll get a cat. Or ‘I’ve been thinking about adding another dog and I’m home for three weeks so I can train it; let’s get a dog,’” Rubeck said. “We did the same processing of adoptions and screening of adopters that we always did, so I don’t think we did any adoptions that were impulse buys, where we’re going to get the animals back in six months.”
In addition to adoptions and other pet-related services, Rubeck noted the shelter tries to be a resource for pet owners who may have questions.
“If you have a pet-related question, call us,” she said. “If we can’t just solve the question for you, we’ll direct you to someone who can.”
While the shelter hasn’t been impacted as severely as other organizations by the coronavirus pandemic, Rubeck added that donations are essential in allowing the shelter to provide pet-related services.
While Rubeck is excited for the No Walk Dog Walk, she noted it’s been a learning experience.
“This is something new and it’s always fun to do new things. Let’s say worst case scenario, we have to do this again next year, we’ll have it figured out,” she said. “Hopefully we’ll never have to do anything like this again but it’s fun to try new things when fund-raisers are concerned and see what works and what doesn’t work.”