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Animal shelter's fundraiser is a carnival for canines -with festive activities galore

Imagine being a dog in Minnesota in the summertime.

Your master is laying out an agenda of 10K runs, festivals, picnics, contests, games, food and doggone fun.

But, as usual, you'll be confined to quarters, an unwritten caveat stating, "No dogs allowed" at these human hootenannies.

Until now.

A Headwaters Animal Shelter Walkathon and Pet Expo will debut Saturday, June 6 in Heartland Park with everything from a dog spa to pet portraits to hot dogs (the edible version).

The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with registration for the walkathon beginning at 9 a.m.

Dogs are invited to walk their masters down the Heartland Trail. Owners will be soliciting pledges with proceeds benefiting the animal shelter.

The walkathon spans four miles, but pets and pedestrians can determine their distance. Walkers without dogs are welcome. The ultimate goal is 100 humans "heeling."

Free bandanas and goodie bags will be awarded to four-legged and two-legged participants. Prizes will be presented to humans raising the most money - two iPods for kids and teens and a digital camera for the triumphant adult.

Walkathon participants raising $30 will receive a water bottle; $60 earns a bottle and a T-shirt.

A catnapathon has been added to the event. While dogs do what they do best (walk), cats will do what they do best (nap).

Purrrsons (cat owners) are invited to solicit pledges and stroll down the Heartland while their pets take a catnap at home.

Meanwhile, the Animal Expo will be in full swing. Dogs are invited to step into the "spa" for a massage, manicure and pedicure (nail trimming), yoga (agility training), etiquette (obedience schooling) cosmetics (animal face painting) and haute couture for hounds (dog clothes).

Micro-chipping will be available for $30 or a voucher may be redeemed at area veterinarian clinics.

Dog contests will proclaim the ugliest canine and determine the pet that most resembles its owner. A coveted "stupidest pet trick" award will also be presented.

Contestants need not participate in the walk. Register on-line for the contests.

A Meet the Breed booth will introduce a Yorkie, a poodle, Doberman, daschund and a mixed breed.

Girls Scouts and 4-H members will be on hand to share information on tick-borne illness, bite prevention and other topics.

Located on Western Avenue South, the Headwaters Animal Shelter opened in the spring of 2003. Since then, hundreds of cats and dogs have been "matched" with owners.

The operation is financed solely via fundraising, volunteer Kim Barr explained. Grants fund medical equipment, but salaries and other expenses are paid with proceeds from dinners, plant and rummage sales and other initiatives.

The goal, she said, has been to initiate a new fundraiser each year. Three years ago, the pet calendar debuted, earning a "paws up."

The response to the idea has been positive, she said. "We hope to make this an annual event."

Pledge forms are available at the shelter, Beagle Books, Angie's Groom and Board, Ark Animal Hospital or go online at www.head watersanimal

Watch the Web site for updates.

All dogs must be on a leash and up to date on vaccinations. "Pooh" bags will be handed out at registration. "We will leave the park the way we found it," Barr said.