Dogs, Humans Come Together at Woofstock 2013
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Dogs, Humans Come Together at Woofstock 2013

The 10th-anniversary edition of Woofstock was a social event for two species.

This is just too cute  Photo by Jason Cook, from the Torontoist Flickr Pool

This is just too cute. Photo by Jason Cook, from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

Woofstock, which claims to be North America’s largest dog festival, saw thousands of canine guests come to the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood this weekend to celebrate its 10th-anniversary edition. The dogs ranged from a Maltese that was scarcely larger than a guinea pig to a Great Dane-Irish Wolfhound cross that was the size of a small bear. The event was also host to over 200 vendors selling everything from high-end collars to pet portraiture, a “rescue village” filled with organizations that help dogs who are abused, and dozens of dog-related events, from costume contests to a pug race.

That said, it was also very much an event about people. Throughout the weekend, strangers stopped each other in the street, petting one another’s dogs and talking about their shared interests. Woofstock founder Marlene Cook says that when she started the festival in 2003, the goal wasn’t just to celebrate man’s best friend, but also to give dog owners chances to connect.

“People are talking to each other,” she says. “They have no agenda…They’re happy, they’re networking, they’re meeting other dog owners and making that connection.”

For Dennis Woo, that sense of community is one of the most appealing things about Woofstock. Woo’s English Bulldog, Bubba, won Sunday’s costume contest in a leatherman-inspired ensemble.

“It’s just a lot of people with a common interest, who love dogs,” said Woo. “There’s this great sense of camaraderie.”

For Bullies in Need co-coordinator Patti Moore, the goal is to use that sense of community to get support for a cause. Bullies in Need fosters and adopts pit bull-type dogs who have been abandoned or abused. She says events like Woofstock not only work as fundraisers for the volunteer-run group, but also help fight misconceptions about the often-maligned breed.

“There’s a lot of fear around them, which isn’t helped by certain parts of the media,” she says. “One of the biggest things for us is awareness…For most people, all it takes is meeting one true pit bull who’s friendly and social and loving, and that changes how they feel about the breed.”

Woofstock’s organizers say that over 40 per cent of housholds now own dogs. Cook says this is probably a result of empty nesters looking for companionship, as well as younger people delaying marriage and children. As a result, she thinks events like Woofstock will become more and more common in cities around the world. Cook says she’s already looking to start an American version of the festival.