Halloween costume contest raises money for assistance dogs

Jenny, age 6. (All photos by Katharine Schroeder)

On a sparkling autumn day, the first annual Howl-O-Tails event to benefit Canine Companions for Independence was held Saturday at Strawberry Fields in Mattituck. 

Several dozen costumed pooches and their owners turned out to enjoy live entertainment, food and a doggie costume contest.

All proceeds from the event will go to Canine Companions for Independence, a non-profit organization founded in 1975 to enhance the lives of people with disabilities by providing them with highly trained assistance dogs.

Organizer and volunteer Joshua Marino became involved in Canine Companions for Independence when a friend of his received an assistance dog. Like many people, he wasn’t aware of the scope of service these dogs provided and wanted to help spread the word about the variety of skills the dogs have.

“They’re not just seeing-eye dogs,” he explained. “They are trained to do so many other things.”

According to Jaime-Faye Malik, northeast director of individual giving for Canine Companions for Independence, the dogs are trained to provide services such as opening and closing doors, handing money or a credit card to a cashier in a store or pulling a wheelchair.

“We tend to use specific breeds for different skills. For instance, labradors are often very calm dogs who don’t bark very much. We encourage this natural inclination not to be vocal so they can bark an alarm when needed,” Ms. Malik said.

Organizer Joshua Marino hopes this first annual Howl-O-Tails will continue to grow and educate the public about these amazing dogs. At a recent Canine Companions for Independence graduation, Mr. Marino was moved by the interaction between the dogs and their new owners.

“When the dogs are handed over, you can see an immediate change in the humans,” he said. “There is joy on the faces of the people who raised the dogs and on the faces of the recipients. It changes lives in both directions.”

The prize for most original costume was awarded to Yarnell, who was dressed as a bunch of grapes. Prize for cutest costume went to Wonderdog Sugar, and the best human/canine costume was awarded to Peggy Gannon and her dog Jenny.

Above caption: Jenny, age 6. (All photos by Katharine Schroeder)

Nondo, age 1, dressed as a taco.
Fiona, age 3, shows off her lacy dress.
Crystal, age 12.
The Howl-O-Tails t-shirt design.
Coba, age 3, dressed as a skeleton.
Organizer Joshua Marino hands out awards.
Sugar, age 2, won the award for cutest costume.
Rotary finds a comfortable seat on top of Steven Yalamas.
Yarnell, age 12, won the award for most original costume.
Peggy Gannon and Jenny won for best human/canine costume.
Who Are Those Guys provided live entertainment.
Raffle prizes donated by local businesses.
Fenway, age 4, is a graduate of the skilled companion team.
Nasca bobs for apples.
Nasca with her prize