After two years of virtual fundraisers, community members of all breeds came together on Saturday for the first in-person Walk with the Animals since 2019.
Now in its 30th year, the event is a fundraiser-turned-festival for the Mary S. Roberts Pet Adoption Center (MSRPAC). Starting out as a simple dog walking event, over the years it’s grown into what MSRPAC Director Carrie Ridgeway called, “A gathering of the community, a gathering of animal welfare, and a good representation of our community.”
Registration was $40 for pets and their owners to roam around Lake Evans at Fairmount Park, but admission was free for those who wanted to shop, snack and watch the critters on display, which in addition to dogs and cats included goats, miniature horses, and even reptiles. Activities included a kids’ zone, a beer garden, a selection of local Riverside vendors for humans and pets alike, and contests for canine citizens.
Since 1917, the Mary S. Roberts Pet Adoption Center has provided shelter for homeless animals as well as resources for pet owners. This includes affordable pet healthcare services such as vaccinations and surgeries, microchipping, grief counseling for people who have lost a beloved pet, and dog and cat food for financially struggling pet owners. The center also has a fund to help senior pet owners pay their veterinarian bills.
“I think it’s important for people to know we are more than just an animal center. We’re a lot more than adoption,” Ridgeway said.
One of the vendors for human participants, Kompoocha, was selling their own kombucha, a fermented tea drink touted by some for its benefits to gut health. Temecula resident Victoria Monroy owns and operates the pop-up with her boyfriend Christian Larson, with the proceeds going to pet-focused nonprofit organizations such as Riverside Animal Rescue. The two have been attending pet events and vegan markets for the past two years.
The same passion for pet welfare was seen in dog food vendors such as Canine Caviar, a Riverside-based holistic dog food company. Owner Daphne Leonguerrero explained the importance of simple, plant-based foods for pet longevity. “If you give dogs the right diet, you’d be surprised how much longer they’re around,” said Leonguererro.
But everyone needs an indulgent treat now and then, and dogs are no exception. Redlands-based vendor The Pup Shack arrived with a food truck stuffed with canine burgers and baked goods, plus more exotic “gourmutt” fare such as doggie beer and – what else? — doggie beer floats. Even so, the company’s website says its treats are grain-free, gluten-free, and sugar-free, and made fresh with no additives or preservatives.
Saturday’s sunshine and happy energy earned the Center significant dividends. “The event was fantastic – our highest-grossing ever – $97,692,” said Ridgeway.