Cheryl Peterson Heart of the Catskill Humane Society volunteer Marie VanValkenburgh takes Doomsday through the dog training/obstacle course while Jaya Lewis and her mother, Lisa Wisely, observe during the animal shelter's Howl-O-Ween event in Delhi on Saturday.

While there were plenty of contest winners at the Heart of the Catskills Humane Society’s Howl-O-Ween event on Saturday, the biggest winners were the dogs and cats that found “forever homes.”

Howl-O-Ween, held at the Delhi American Legion field, is an annual fundraiser for the shelter. The family- and pet-friendly event gives the facility a chance to showcase its adoptable pets in an atmosphere made festive with contests, costumes, music and fall-themed decorations 

“The event is designed to include the community,” said director Deb Crute. 

As dogs met dogs and people browsed the latest pet products, Crute introduced about a dozen dogs that are available for adoption through the shelter. 

“Dell, a 10-year Shepherd mix, is affectionate, smart and knows commands,” said Deb Crute over the microphone. “Bentley is a 3-year neutered pit bull mix, great with other dogs and very nice. Lady, a basset hound, has the sweetest disposition and energy.”

On their best behavior, each dog, assisted by staff members and volunteers, walked around and became acquainted with the community. Cats were not to be left out of the Howl-O-Ween event. Under a tent, in clean cages, were cats the shelter  officials also hoped to place in permanent homes.

In keeping with the Halloween theme, mingling in the crowd were burglars, ostriches, witches, cowgirls and balloon bundles. Heart of the Catskills board member Brent Truitt said he spent weeks in the garage making his disguise, “a large cat scratcher,” he said through a peep hole. 

Dressed as “a nice witch of Oz,” Nancy Delameter of Hancock said she comes to the event each year. 

“My husband, Chester, volunteers as DJ,” Delameter said. 

“And, it’s fun being able to wear costumes. I made the hat and got my shoes at Goodwill,” she noted while holding her “peek-a-poo,” 9-year-old Opie, also dressed in purple to match.

The day featured a variety of spirited contests for pets and their people, including musical sits and downs, a version of musical chairs without the chairs. Dogs circled while “The Twist” played over loudspeakers. Judges Joanne and Eddie Callahan had the formidable task of detecting which dog sat down last when the music stopped. 

“I think Taz is more interested in something else,” said Randy Moxham as he and his dog left the circle. “But he will do well in the hot dog-eating contest.”

In between contests, attendees browsed booths set up by a variety of local businesses and organizations. 

“We invite vendors to come to the fundraiser event so they can show people what’s available in the area,” said Marion Ott, Heart of the Catskill board member. “Vendors do not have to pay to set up and it’s good public interaction.”

A new business from Bloomville, Dogstars, vended gluten-free dog biscuits made with organic meat. 

“We buy the meat locally and produce healthy treats,” owner Queny Villanueva said. 

Other vendors included Invisible Fence, Beastie Boutique and Island Girl Henna Body Art.

Among the crowd were some past adoptees, including a dog named Dizzy, owned by the Miller family. 

“The kids fell in love with Dizzy a few years ago, so we adopted her from Heart of the Catskills,” mom Christine Miller said. 

The family is fostering a cat and her four kittens through the shelter as well. 

“I like running through the woods with Dizzy,” said Madison Miller, who gets up at 5:30 a.m. to feed the dog and other animals on the hobby farm.

“Pets are a wonderful thing to have and create great experiences,” Crute noted. “But they are a responsibility, so we work together to consider all the dynamics to make an adoption go smoothly.”

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