Puppy Love 5K Fills Community with Paw-sitivity

On Sun. March 16, community members took part in a 5K. Now this isn’t a surprise, Carlsbad and the rest of San Diego county’s gorgeous weather makes it an ideal host for races of various lengths throughout the year. What was unusual, however, was the participants. Dogs or all breeds and sizes ran alongside their owners in the Puppy Love 5K Run/Walk to support the Helen Woodward Animal Center.

This was the fifth annual Puppy Love 5K for the center and it had by far the largest turn out. The run, hosted by Blue Buffalo, attracted a record number of approximately 1,500 participants, not including our four-legged friends.

“It was an incredibly, incredibly successful year for us. We think a lot of it has to do with the weather and maybe the luck of the Irish with St. Patrick’s day so near,” Jessica Gercke, PR manager for the Helen Woodward Animal Center said.

The main purpose of the event was to raise money for the Helen Woodward animal Center. All the funds raised went towards the 13 different programs offered by the center, focusing mainly on therapeutic programs and care for orphaned pets. Sponsors raised over $70,000 in addition to the money raised by the individual participants.

“It’s very nice here for fundraising, we had a lot of fabulous team raisers. People formed groups of six to 10 and put up things online and raised money for the pets so that was really lovely,” Gercke said.

The run started at 8 am, followed shortly by a walk at 8:20. Participants and their dogs followed a scenic route along Coast Highway 101 in Solana Beach. The beautiful course and lovely unseasonal weather made the event enjoyable for everyone. Volunteers lined the route with signs of paw-sitive encouragement and whole families participated along with their dogs. Some unusual pets even participated, including but not limited to pigs.

“I wanted to support the Helen Woodward animal center and I wanted my dog to get some exercise,” participant Jackie Nakamura said. “I thought it went really well. It was fun and it was a very scenic route.”

Many of the participants came dressed up in St. Patricks Day attire and many pouches were decked out in costume as well. It added to the cheerful mood of the event and demonstrated the bond between person and dog.

“We’re so grateful to the people that come out,” Gercke said. “ We really feel that our dogs are family, they’re more than just pets. You see people out here with their animals, they’re dressed in costume, you can tell that they go running with these pets on a regular basis, they really are a part of their lives.”

After the run, there were two costume contests for participants to take part in or watch: the lucky dog costume contest which was just for dogs and then the human-canine combo costume contest. The day also featured an agility course, booths with vendors offering shopping and raffle opportunities and a kids section with mace paint, relay races and crafts, and music blasted in the air to keep everyone’s spirits high.

“There are two wonderful things about this event: first of all it raises so much money for the orphan pets at Helen Woodward Animal Center, and also it really does a lot for my heart to see how people bring their pets,” Gercke said. “We see a lot of rescued animals out here and people take them into their homes and make them family, and that really means the world.”

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