Doggy Idol chance to howl

Simon Cowell won’t be making any guest appearances, but Victoria’s four-legged friends will be wagging on stage this week for a good cause

Eileen-Heather Pritchard (left) and Marie Zirk stand with furry contestants ready to show off in Doggy Idol.

Simon Cowell won’t be making any guest appearances, but Victoria’s four-legged friends will be wagging on stage this week to see whose impressive howl will win the 2012 Doggy Idol.

“Idol is always about having fun, but this is a mission to support those who need a hand,” says Eileen-Heather Pritchard, Doggy Idol founder. “It’s the hero work of organizations in our community that’s really something to clap at.”

While competing pooches primp their paws for categories like “Dog With the Waggiest Tail,” “Looks Most Like Owner,” “Dressed to the K-9s” and “A Face Only A Mother Could Love,” all residents can leash a chance to vote for favourites in the traditional Idol style. Yet, unlike its self-focused celebutante cousin, this Idol is all for a good cause — every penny goes towards two struggling organizations trying to make life a little easier on the city’s street and orphaned pets: the pro-bono Vets for Pets and Victoria Adoptables.

“A lot of people don’t realize pets on the street are often better cared for than some people’s housed pets — even if that’s at the owner’s peril,” says Pritchard, a long-time poverty advocate who ran a dog rescue in Alberta. “Those animals are a valued part of that person’s existence, so you will see people go without food in order to pay for their pet’s food, shots, licences.”

In an effort to address some of those challenges, organizations like Dr. Jane Vermeulen’s Philanthropic Vaccine Clinic, known as Victoria Vets for Pets, is on the call. Since 2009, Vermeulen and her team of volunteer veterinarians have donated their skills in the courtyard at Our Place the second Thursday of every month, from 2 to 4pm. Most people wait hours in line to be sure their pet receives care.

But free services don’t come cheap for everyone. Vets for Pets is always in need of pet food, antibiotics, vaccines, parasite controls, thermometers and equipment. Cue Doggy Idol, where Pritchard first groomed the idea into existence in 2009 for the Cool Aid Culture Festival. The miniature free show was a spotlight hit and, this year, Pritchard has turned it into a fundraiser with big prizes for competitors. Vendors and a professional photo booth for pets will also be present throughout the day, along with a “Jack Jump” and the fashion show. At 4pm, Marie Zirk from Dog Tech will offer a seminar on dog obedience training; a quiet room and green space will be available.

“The groups like Victoria Adoptables and Vets for Pets don’t have the kind of manpower to do these events on their own,” says Pritchard, whose own friend is a small Conure parrot named Piccolo. “It’s a wonderful chance for the community to help the people who are helping us.” M

See Doggy Idol Sat., Sept. 22, 11am to 5:30pm at St. Luke’s Church Hall (3821 Cedar Hill Cross). Admission $4 (kids are free). Donate gently used collars, leashes, or unopened pet food to receive $1 off. No fee to enter furry competitors. For more, visit Doggy Idol’s Facebook page.

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