BELPRE - Community members and their dogs came out to Civitan Park Saturday for the sixth annual Lions Club Dog Days Festival.
"Our goal is to raise enough money to purchase a Pilot Dog for a visually impaired person in our local Lions district," said Stan Starling of the Chester Hill Lions Club.
Starling, who is also on the Pilot Dogs Inc. board of directors, said the area Lions Clubs have raised enough money to purchase six Pilot Dogs in the past five years. Funds raised last year did not purchase a dog, but did purchase a Braille computer for a Warren High School graduate who needed it to further his education.
Photos by Jolene Craig
Marge Packer of Lancaster, Ohio, poses with her Pilot Dog Becky, a 6-year-old black Laborador Retriever, at the Lions Club Dog Days Festival in Belpre’s Civitan Park Saturday. Packer received Becky five years ago through the Zone 7 Lions Clubs.
"This year's festival is all about the dogs," Starling said.
The weekend event, which included live music, a country store, a flea market and food concessions, raised money for the Zone 7 Lions Club to purchase a service dog. Pilot Dogs cost an average of $8,500 each, Starling said.
Five years ago Marge Packer of Lancaster, Ohio, was given Becky, a black Laborador Retriever who never leaves her human's side.
"Having Becky has given me my freedom," said Packer, who is completely blind in her right eye and has limited peripheral vision in her left eye. "I'm able to do so much that I couldn't do without her; we go on walks every day and she's a wonderful companion."
Because the Lions Clubs raise the money for the dogs, there is no cost to the individuals who receive them, Starling said.
"The $8,500 cost includes the dog, the dog's training, transportation for the individuals that receive the dog as well as housing, meals and training for the people," Starling said. "The cost also includes veterinary care and treatment - the people pay nothing."
Other service dogs can cost anywhere from $17,000 to $65,000, Starling added.
Pilot Dogs Inc., based out of Columbus, attended the event with one dog - a Labrador retriever named Tory.
"Bringing dogs to these types of events gives us a chance to show the public what the dogs do on a day-to-day basis," said trainer Ray Byers.
Pilot Dogs are trained for a year by a volunteer - living in their home and being a short-term member of the family.
"Until people come to events like this one and meet us, they don't realize all the ways they can help," Starling said. "It can be difficult to find people to raise and train the dogs because it can be very difficult to give the puppies up after they have become part of your life."
The purpose of the event dates back to 1924, when Lions Club International accepted the challenge to become "knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness" by Helen Keller.
The Lions Clubs of Zone 7 includes Lions in Chester Hill, Scenic Hills, Beverly, Frontier, Reno, Belpre, Noble County and Marietta Noon.
In addition to monetary donations, the Lions also accepted donations of dog food for shelters, used eyeglasses and old hearing aids.
Final numbers on the event will not be ready for several weeks, Starling said.