A man’s best friend: Dog owners walk around Taman Langsat in Kebayoran Baru during PawDay. --JP/Maria Kegel
Close to 200 tails were wagging furiously throughout the morning of Feb. 13, when the second annual PawDay brought together Jakarta’s dogs and their owners for a day out in Taman Langsat in Kebayoran Baru.
Coinciding with Valentine’s Day, which fell the day after, the fundraiser celebrated a love for pets, and attracted an estimated 380 people and their companion animals who leisurely walked the 1.2 kilometer paved route around the park, before gathering in the tent area, set up in the tennis courts, for games and prizes.
Event organizer and project leader Susan Mallia said Jakarta Animal Aid Network’s (JAAN) team of organizers and volunteers were “ecstatic” over the high totals, with more than double the amount of people and dogs taking part from last year.
“People cannot wait for us to host another dog event. They loved the day out especially as their canine companions were the main focus,” she said.
Pampered pooches of all shapes and sizes, some done up in bows and some sporting doggie-tees, mingled on leashes with each other peacefully while their owners, sharing a canine common ground, struck up conversations with one another.
One owner, worried that her small dog would misbehave around so many larger breeds, was relieved at how social the atmosphere was for them and the positive effect it had on his behavior, calling PawDay a “Woodstock for animals”.
The fundraiser also attracted non-pet owners. One reason Jakarta resident Sarah Skelton said she attended was that she misses having contact with dogs from her native England.
“It was so well-organized, and I couldn’t believe how many different types of dogs there are here,” said Skelton. She added it was also a good opportunity to get out and see Taman Langsat for the first time.
“It would be nice to have these events move around the city so that we could get to see the other different pockets of Jakarta.”
New features added to this year’s fundraiser included musical mutts, a game played like musical chairs in which dogs were eliminated if they weren’t standing on a mat when the music stopped.
Before the game, a number of participants took part in the puppy Picasso painting competition, in which owners dipped their pet’s paws into pans of paint and then pressed them on a large sheet of paper in a colorful design.
All artwork was judged and owners of the winning artists were awarded prizes. A talent show rounded off the events, with owners bringing their dogs on stage to have them perform a trick or two.
Event organizer Mary Lee Stenson, who was honored at the fundraiser as the organization's volunteer of the year, had come up with the ideas for the dog competitions and emceed all the activities.
"She even made the edible dog paint herself," Mallia added.
"PawDay raised people's awareness immensely as well as provided much-needed funds for JAAN's many animal welfare programs," said Mallia, who had spent the last six months organizing and preparing for this year's dog walk.
"All the hard work and effort was worth it and I find great comfort in knowing JAAN now has funds to help cover their massive monthly expenses for helping so many animals in Jakarta," said Mallia, who is originally from South Africa.
Buoyed by the event's results, Mallia said organizers would strive to make next year's PawDay bigger and better.
"We now know a large part of the community love their dogs, support our organization and want to support us in the future," she said, adding that most participants commented that they wanted another dog event this year and that their feedback would be considered.
Although organizers called Taman Langsat a great venue for holding the event, they would explore other options that could accommodate a higher turnout for next year. An avid animal lover, Mallia and her husband own four dogs, of which three were adopted from a rescue shelter in Hong Kong over the four years they lived in the city before they move to Jakarta last year.
"It was a great day out for meeting new friends and meeting people with similar passions. Most of all, PawDay offered dogs and dog owners an enjoyable, social, fun day out," she said.