The Arizona Animal Fair

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PET FRIENDLY. Our furry, feathery, scaly, slimy, two-legged, four-legged, six-legged and eight-legged friends finally have a day of their own. On Saturday, Feb. 21, Saving Animals From Euthanasia (SAFE) invites a bunch of these creatures, along with their human companions, to Reid Park for the third annual Arizona Animal Fair.

The largest event of its kind in Arizona, the all-day fair features amusements for all species. Pets and their pals can play and socialize for a good cause: All proceeds benefit participating nonprofit organizations like SAFE.

"We're doing it to reduce the euthanasia rate in Pima County," says Reagen Kulseth, president of SAFE. "We do it in three ways: by educating owners so that animals are retained by them and not abandoned; by low-cost microchipping to reunite pets with owners; and through adoptions of homeless animals by animal rescue groups."

This year, one very special dog in particular needs a lot of help. Joseph was run over by his owner. Rather than rushing him to the vet, like most pet owners would, Joseph's owner waited an entire week before seeking medical care for the dog's crushed leg. By the time a vet saw Joseph, he had a major bone infection and was in excruciating pain. Instead of expensive surgery or amputation, it was decided that Joseph would be euthanized. SAFE became involved and saved the poor pup from an all-too-common fate, made worse by human negligence.

Now, Joseph is in a loving foster home, awaiting surgery and physical therapy. SAFE hopes that enough funds will be raised at the Animal Fair to give Joseph the help he needs to recover. Donations of money will go towards Joseph's fund, while donations of supplies will benefit local programs to help shelter homeless pets. Participants can help in another way, too: Several animal rescue agencies will be on hand to introduce pets to prospective parents.

For those animals lucky enough to have loving homes already, there are a variety of ways to celebrate. How about matrimony? Forget about fancy clothing, wedding rings and music--it's all provided. Puppies in love can be married in a ceremony led by an ordained minister, all for $10. (No word yet on the moral acceptability of this ceremony over civil unions.) Pets who fear commitment may wish to settle for the afternoon's special pet blessing.

And what freshly hitched purebred would pass up the chance to star in Newlyweds: Doggie Style? (That's our name; don't blame SAFE.) A-1 Animal Talent will be holding auditions for dogs, cats, bats, rats, reptiles and spiders. For those animals without silver-screen aspirations, Glamour Paws Pet Photography will be on hand to stroke the egos of domestic divas from all species. As the fair's flyer gleefully says, "Torture your pet by having him photographed in a costume he'd rather eat!"

For those pets more athletically inclined, options abound. Skyy Dogs USA and the Dream Team will exhibit their famous aerobatic skills, impressive disc-catching ability and clever tricks. From playing goalie at hockey and soccer games, to retrieving drinks from the fridge, these dogs promise to entertain and amaze.

The Muttley Crew, a combination of dancing dogs and Frisbee catchers, will perform their breathtaking stunts choreographed to music. The crew of canines have been champions or finalists in numerous dog-agility challenges, and, in 1999, they were the No. 1-ranked team worldwide in the sport of "canine disc." To add to their achievements, the Muttley Crew starred in the Rob Schneider film, The Animal. (Please don't hold that against them.)

Aspiring Paw-cassos and their old masters can find their inner arf-tists (OK, I'll stop) with nine different colors of pet-safe paints. Have a good, messy time, and maybe even end up with a masterpiece for the refrigerator door.

Everybody's pet has something special about them. How about getting some recognition for it? The day's contests include Cutest Pet, Ugliest Pet and Wag-a-thon. See other special dogs as the Police K-9s show off their on-command attack skills, and the Southwest Rescue Dogs demonstrate their tracking abilities.

When it comes to keeping your pet friends safe, there are several resources to be found at the Arizona Animal Fair. A microchipping clinic will provide safe, permanent identification for pets for only $20. Lectures will deal with a variety of subjects, from rattlesnake-proofing to the importance of the human-animal bond. In addition, a special discussion of animal cruelty in our community is scheduled for 12:30 p.m.

In between scheduled events, pets can romp around in a refreshing lagoon while their human counterparts may prefer to browse the arts and crafts displays.

The Arizona Animal Fair takes place at Demeester Outdoor Performance Center in Reid Park on Saturday, Feb. 21. The festivities run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. See safeanimals.com for more information.

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