VALDOSTA — It rained cats and dogs at the first-ever Paws for Celebration.

However, don’t underestimate the power of an animal-loving community to come together despite nasty, unpredictable weather.

In observance of the Humane Society of Valdosta-Lowndes County’s 30th year, the non-profit organization put on its first Paws for Celebration event Saturday, Aug. 17. The event went on with plenty of dogs and their pet parents roaming around rain or shine.

“It makes me a little teary-eyed actually,” said Emily Smith, Humane Society director of operations. “It’s very rewarding and humbling to know that people are still willing to come out despite the awful weather to support a good cause and to have a nice time and to celebrate their pets.”

The event, Smith said, was a chance for people to learn about what the organization does and how to get involved.

Because the Humane Society is not government funded, it relies on donations and charitable gifts to afford programs such as the Life Ride mobile unit that transports cats and dogs to no-kill shelters or the trap-neuter-return program to humanely control the growing cat populations.

Guests could adopt animals on the spot — two puppies went to a new home within the first hour — or they could become members of the Humane Society for $35 a year, which pays for spaying or neutering a cat.

“It’s important to celebrate this and to encourage people to give to this organization because they have no other funding,” said Mayor John Gayle, who delivered a proclamation at the event. “They are so important to the city — there’s no question about it. We would be overrun by animals if it wasn’t for the Humane Society.”

Along with Gayle declaring Saturday as Paws for Celebration Day, the event invited Pastor Stan White to bless the dogs, featured a parade of adoptable dogs, a parade of therapy dogs and working dog demos.

Many of the guests brought their dogs, such as Lindsay and Anthony Gutierrez, who walked around Drexel Park with “fur babies” Princess and Violet.

In total, they have five pets, so supporting the Humane Society is important to them.

“We really enjoy supporting animal events,” Lindsay said. “We have a few rescues ourselves — a rescue pig, rescue dog and rescue cat. It’s a cause close to our heart.”

Smith said the Humane Society plans to make this an annual event.

Fingers crossed it doesn’t pour next year.

Animals are family members, Smith said. 

“I love animals so much because they provide comfort, they’re dedicated, they’re loyal and they are just such a source of joy," she said. "It’s nice to be able to share that with other people, especially if it’s someone that might be looking for their first animal or another animal.”

Katelyn Umholtz is a reporter with the Valdosta Daily Times. She can be contacted at (229)244-3400 ext. 1256.

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