By KIMEKO MCCOY
A little known fact is that the Fountain of Youth Archaeological park is pet-friendly, but the upcoming St. Augustine Maritime Heritage Foundation Festival is looking to step that up a notch.
Linda Allen, secretary media director of the foundation, and Silke Schröder, owner of Pet Camp, have put their heads together to come up with a way to promote a pet-friendly city.
The foundation’s festival, which is on Oct. 18-19, will host a variety of events including Allen and Schröder’s event, Astillero de Perro.
This event, otherwise known as the Amateur Maritime Dog Agility Contest, will be on both days of the festival at the Fountain of Youth.
“A lot of people don’t realize that the fountain is dog friendly,” Allen said, “and that’s one of the reasons we wanted to promote that.”
Some of the events involve digging for treasure and other amateur events.
Allen, whose dog Sassy travels with her by boat, said that people are starting to travel more frequently with their pups.
Often, when pets are left alone for extended periods of time, owners return to a lot of different issues.
“The pet is a pack animal and they do need human or animal contact in order for them to be somewhat well-balanced,” Schröder said.
So leaving your dog at home with someone coming in only to feed and take it out periodically can have a negative effect leading to destructive behavior, depression, lack of eating and other issues.
Allen came up with the idea while talking to a fellow boater and was told about a competition that takes place in Maine called Boatyard Dog. She looked up the info up online and what she found was the World Championship Boatyard Dog Trials.
This year’s event wrapped up in August.
During the trials, the dogs complete three events within an 8-minute span. There’s the dockside obstacle course, the dinghy hop and the freestyle segment.
Normally, the championship dogs actually get into the water.
Because St. Augustine didn’t have the facility Allen was looking for, she decided to adopt it to fit into the landscape of the Fountain of Youth.
She also found she couldn’t title her event Boatyard Dogs because the name was trademarked. So Allen came up with something that’s fitting for St. Augustine pups: Astillero de Perro or Amateur Maritime Dog Agility Contest.
She found the title translated to the dog that owns the boatyard.
“I said yes. Any dog that’s at that boatyard is going to think it’s theirs,” Allen said. “So I decided to keep it at that.”
The next step was for Allen to get her idea off the ground.
She called Schröder, who loved the idea right away.
Schröder said that when Allen contacted her about the festival, she saw it as a good opportunity to create an event that would be pet-friendly so people can go out as a family including their furry friends.
“I’m always for those kind of activities,” Schröder said. “I thought it was a great idea and I was very pleased to have her ask me to be part of it.”
Allen said she’s hoping to start building relationships for people in the community with pets like K9s for Warriors in Ponte Vedra.
She really wants to stress that dogs are companions that offer a plethora of benefits.
“It just seemed like it was a good fit as this time,” Allen said. “We’re just trying to have a community so when someone comes down with their pet they know they don’t have to try and leave them at home or leave them in the boat. They can bring them out.”
The efforts of Allen and Schröder in the first festival last year have attracted a pair of sponsors this year. PetSupermarket and St. Johns Veterinary Hospital are backers of the event.
“St. Johns Veterinary Hospital is proud to be supporting active healthy pets,” hospital spokesperson Karen Lane said. “Healthy pets are happy pets.”