The dog days of summer may be over but canine lovers across DeSoto County still love to parade their pooches around in style.

The DeSoto Animal Rescue Society held its annual dog walk on Saturday at Olive Branch City Park with more than 100 entrants strutting their stuff.

"It gets bigger every year," said Ruth Ann Hale with DARS and the main organizer of the event. The DeSoto Times-Tribune was media sponsor of the event. "It's such good camaraderie with all of our pet lovers."

From poodles to chihuahuas to rescue dogs with mixed pedigrees, these pampered pooches stepped out with plenty of panache.

In its mission statement, DARS is a different rescue mechanism for lost or abandoned pets.

"We are not a shelter with a facility where you can visit our pets," Hale reiterated. "All rescued pets live in our own homes, where they are evaluated and cared for until they find their ideal adoptive family. We do our best to make the best match for pet and new family. We carefully screen prospective homes and require all applicants to go through an extensive adoption application process. We strive for the absolutely best home match for our animals. They are our top priority."

DARS is not affiliated with the Desoto County Animal Shelter or any governmental agency. DARS does not receive any taxpayer funds and operates solely on donations and the revenue generated from fundraising events.

"One-hundred percent of our incoming funds go directly towards the care of our animals and to pay our vet bills," Hale said. "All other expenses are paid for by our own volunteers."

October is the American Society for the Prevention of Animals "Adopt A Rescue Dog Month." Other organizations and agencies across DeSoto County have joined in the effort of rescuing animals and finding good homes for abandoned pets.

DeSoto County Animal Shelter officials reported a successful month of adopting out stray or unwanted animals during its annual "petSember" Adoption event at the DeSoto County Animal Shelter on Gwynn Road.

Monica Mock, Executive Director, said during the month of September there were a total of 133 animals which were rescued, or a total of 73 canines and 60 cats.

There was also a total of 13 animals who received identifying microchips, six tests for heartworms, feline leukemia and other health issues were given and more than 26 vaccines administered.

"We had an outstanding year this year," Mock said. "This year we had a total of 993 adoptions which is an all-time record. We worked really hard this year."

Charles Reinhorn of Olive Branch with Friends of the DeSoto County Animal Shelter and a volunteer for Blackwell Animal Rescue Center, or BARC, said rescue flights from Memphis International Airport continue with the "Wings of Rescue" effort.

Last Saturday, at least 55 dogs and puppies were saved with the help of more than 85 volunteers.

Also this past week, "Wings of Rescue" flew more than 400 cats and dogs to safety from the devastated island of Puerto Rico.

Events and fund raisers are held throughout the year to assist with these rescue efforts.

This Saturday, Blackwell Animal Rescue Center (BARC) is sponsoring its 5K and 10K run.

The run begins at 8 a.m. at Latimer Lakes Park in Horn Lake.

"There is a lot going on," Reinhorn said. "It's a very exciting time. Four years ago when I started helping with this, there were 3 million dogs being killed annually. Now, there are 2 million dogs being killed. In 1984, there were 17 million dogs killed. This is a start."

In the DeSoto County seat, efforts are being made to create a better quality of life for animals and a chance for pets and their owners to get plenty of physical exercise.

The dedication of the new Hernando Dog Park is set for this Friday at 10 a.m. at Renasant Park, off U.S. Hwy. 51, just south of the historic Hernando Court Square.

"It's a safe place to take your dog if you live in an apartment or someplace that doesn't have a big yard," Cindy Gordon with Fairway Mortgage said. "We have a large dog park and a small dog park with a water fountain. We also put in a parking lot that is all fenced."

Gordon said the dog park was financed through a combination of corporate sponsors and individual contributions.

"Mostly, it's been from individuals who have contributed," Gordon said. "We've been working at this for a long time. It appeals to citizens of all ages and promotes health and well being of pets and their owners. It's a benefit, an amenity for the city."

Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at rlong@desototimestribune.com or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.

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