ORTLEY BEACH – It was a dog day afternoon that stretched into the evening at the public parking lot at 3rd Avenue.
The second annual “Doggie Day” hosted by the Friends of Ortley Beach celebrated residents and visitors’ four-legged friends.
The free event was a tribute to pets and pet lovers and gave pause to some amusing attributes of the canine community. It included a Doggie Dimensions contest which measured the longest tail, longest legs, shortest legs, longest ears and longest hair of each pooch present.
The Friends of Ortley Beach is a nonprofit organization that formed to enhance and sustain the natural beauty and resources of the barrier island community for future generations.
The group’s president, Gail D’Amico, said “our events are for full time residents and our summer residents. We want them to be fun, informative and many of them have a focus on our sensitive environment.”
She added that after the events of Superstorm Sandy, which had a devastating impact on Ortley Beach, which is a section of Toms River Township, “I noticed a difference. Many of us felt we had lost our sense of community and it was important to get back that feeling of a neighborhood. We wanted to let people know that we were more than a middle point between Seaside Heights and Lavallette.”
D’Amico said the group has 137 members and is growing. “We’re not affiliated with the local voters and taxpayers association. We focus on other things and we even started a scholarship program for students living in Ortley Beach. We hope to expand that program in the future. This is about community building.”
A number of vendors were present selling various treats, bandanas, toys, balms and other pet related services including grooming and microchipping. Various veterinary services and health professionals were also on site along with animal rescue organizations promoting the need for pet adoptions.
“We have at least 50 dogs here already and it’s just a half hour into the event. We hope to have about 1,000 people here today,” D’Amico said.
Member Mary Ann Wallis coordinated the project again this year with help from other members.
“My dog is here too. Rosco is half boxer and half …I have no idea. I think he’s a little calmer this year than he was last year. This is fun and people love their dogs in Ortley Beach. I’ve gotten to know a lot of people through walking around and talking to them as we walk our dogs. It’s a great way of making new friends,” Wallis said.
A training demonstration by Kindred Souls Canine Training Center of Howell was held early on during the event. Training Director Peter Campione said, “You have to imagine that your dog is a small human. Would you treat your child as you would your dog? The object here is to walk your dog through this crowd and not have an incident.”
Dori, a 7-year-old Doberman Pinscher was among the dogs who participated in a training demonstration. “She is a certified therapy dog,” Kindred Souls representative Pam Miller, of Brick said.
All Fur One volunteer Sue Casella, Brick wasn’t sure what breed dog Jax was. The one-year old pooch was among 28 dogs brought from a kill shelter in Virginia seeking a new “leash” on life.
Casella said All Fur One is involved with pet rescue and adoptions and is based in Toms River. “They opened in May and were looking for volunteers so I volunteered,” Casella said. The organization can be reached by calling 732-255-3871 or visiting allfurone.org.
Valerie Horoski, Brick, brought Higgins, her 4-year-old English sheepdog to the event. “This is my first year here. My friend told me about it. He was just measured for his hair which is quite long,” Horoski said.
Raffle prizes were awarded and pets and people had the chance to enjoy some refreshments from the Sugar Shack snack bar during the event.
The group’s next event is part of its speaker series called “Shellfish and the Barnegat Bay” at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 4 at St. Elizabeth’s Chapel, Five, 3rd Ave. Ortley Beach.
The event’s speaker is Cheryl McCurry of ReClam the Bay who will discuss the group’s efforts to grow clams and oysters to improve the health of the Barnegat Bay.
McCurry has been with ReClaim the Bay since 2017 and graduated from a Rutgers university sponsored class in Shellfish Gardening/Coastal Stewardship.
The event is free and will include light refreshments. New members and guests are encouraged. The group can be reached at friendsofortleybeach.org.