Children costumed as a cup, candlestick, feather duster, hunter and dog sang and danced while two horses pranced and cantered with a princess and a prince on their backs in “Riding to the Music of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.”
But that was only one of the attractions at the PETCON Pet & Equine Expo last weekend at the Washington County Fairgrounds & Expo Center. There were service dogs that help children with autism and puppies, dogs and kittens available for adoption from shelters and rescue organizations. Artists and crafters sold pet-themed wares, and veterinarians and horse trainers spoke at seminars.
The expo was produced by Carla Mader of Finleyville, who is also publisher of PetConnections magazine.
Most people brought their own dogs and enjoyed meeting and mingling with other pets. A tail-wagging little spotted dog got lots of attention because she was so cute and so friendly. Jetta Marie, 7, is a Jack Russell terrier-pug mix, said owners Bernie and Verna McGinley of Mt. Lebanon.
“Her name was supposed to be Patches, but she didn’t answer to that,” Mrs. McGinley said. “As a puppy she was always jetting around, so we called her Jetta. She responded and that stuck.”
Another spotted dog put her paws on a table to greet author David Elliot Cohen as he signed copies of his book, “The Wrong Dog.” “This is my rescue dog, Callie,” said Karen Frazier of Jane Lew, W.Va.
One-year-old Labrador retrievers Denver and Clay seemed very excited to be meeting so many strangers. As other dogs barked and ran on the nearby Luring 101 course, Denver and Clay barked and jumped up and down.
“They are service dogs in training, and here is the finished product,” said Jim Wagner, pointing to the beautifully behaved Landon, 3, a yellow Lab. He and his wife, Susan Wagner, operate Perfect Fit Canines, Inc.
“Landon is my son’s service dog,” explained Deanna Yee of Penn Hills. Her son Sean, 10, was teamed with Landon last July.
“Sean used to have three to four meltdowns every day and they went on for as long at 2½ hours. He was hurting himself and he was hurting me. We have not had one meltdown since we got Landon,” Mrs. Yee said.
“Landon senses when Sean is getting agitated. He licks him,” and that averts the behavior.
The Wagners have trained and placed 20 service dogs in the past seven years. Some went to children with autism and others to adults with a variety of issues, including PTSD.
“We could place more dogs if we had more people to raise the puppies,” Mr. Wagner said. Currently 12 people are raising puppies. (Information: www.perfectfitcanines.org or 412-359-9789.)
One of their puppy raisers is Bill English of Ross, who came to the expo with Faith, 2, a black Labrador retriever.
“This is very rewarding,” said Mr. English. “I was there when Sean met Landon for the first time. That was very special.”