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Who Let the Dogs Out?

This may be the biggest social event of the year—for your dog, that is. But don't worry, you're invited, too. This year's Dogtoberfest, on Sunday, Oct. 27, is a gathering of dogs and their people for a day of socializing, games, contests, food and fun.

Dogtoberfest "is very much a celebration of the human-dog bond," said JoAnn Turnbull, a coordinator of the festival. "It's the perfect event for anybody who likes to take their dog someplace ... and go and do something unique and different."

Let's be honest: Dogtoberfest is first and foremost a dog show. Over the course of the festival there is a laundry list of activities, such as a scent-tracking game and the Best Dog Trick contest. "We have a doggy costume contest, a trick contest, a person look-alike, different things like that," Turnbull said.

The event is little bit like a county fair as well, with numerous food and beverage vendors, live music (the Sonoran Dogs Bluegrass Band will perform) and a beer garden.

Dig a little deeper and you'll see some other themes going on behind the scenes at Dogtoberfest. For instance, you'll notice that there are many events that humans participate in as much as the dogs. "There's a person-dog obstacle course; we have a radar gun so you can see how fast your dog runs—a whole bunch of fun activities that you and your dog can do," Turnbull said.

The human-canine teamwork thing is no coincidence. In fact, it's quite revealing of the festival's underlying purpose:

"Dogtoberfest is a fundraiser for Handi-Dogs, a nonprofit that helps train service dogs for people with disabilities," Turnbull said. Since 1973, the Handi-Dogs organization has been serving the Tucson community by training multiple kinds of service dogs and their human partners. "We help train for diabetes-alert dogs, hearing dogs, (dogs for) people with physical challenges, autism. We work with people with a wide spectrum of disabilities," Turnbull said.

And it is further comforting to know that many of the dogs trained by Handi-Dogs are coming straight from shelters. "A lot of those dogs are dogs that have been rescued through rescue groups or shelters or things like that ... (and) are now helping their people live fuller and more enriched lives," Turnbull said. The dogs go from living in shelter kennels, or perhaps on the streets, to being a valuable part of a truly needy, loving family.

Other activities at the event include paw painting, tunneling games, a human-dog team obstacle course, scent games, pet portraits, a group game of Simon Says, a Best Dog Costume contest and a raffle.

Handi-Dogs helps make that happen. And Dogtoberfest helps make Handi-Dogs happen.

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