Kindness is overriding theme at 23rd Pet Rock Festival
By Rod Lee
A list of participating businesses and organizations that could be obtained at the gate answered all questions about what was happening on the field at Wyman Gordon in North Grafton on September 12.
If any doubts lingered, there was enough barking and yelping to provide further confirmation.
The 23rd annual Pet Rock Festival, New England’s largest animal welfare event, began at noon on a sunny Sunday and ran until about four o’clock. Emphasizing “kindness to all animals,” this year’s production featured an amateur dog show and shelter pet parade, more than one hundred pet-related vendors, animal-breed rescues and New England-based animal shelters, demos, Frisbee dog team, carnival rides, vegetarian food, a doggie water park, agility course, awards and more. Voice Star Billy Gilman headlined the musical lineup.
Among those present with names that indicated they belonged on the premises were “No Mutts Left Behind,” “Andrea’s Custom Collars,” “Cocker Spaniel Rescue of NE,” “Ruff Tales Rescue,” “Mass Vest-a-Dog,” “Pawssion Designer Pet Clothing,” “Woof Woof Wagon Pet Boutique and Biscuit Bar,” “Happy Tails Market,” “Rising Sun Pet Sitting and Dog Walking,” “Hot Diggity Dog Pet Care” and “Tufts Paws for People.”
You get the idea.
Happy to be on the premises were Chris Sturdivant of Dorchester and Ellen Moran of Worcester, representing the Col. Potter Cairn Rescue Network, which they described as “the largest single-breed rescue operation in the world.” This all-volunteer nonprofit has helpers “all over the country and we pay for the vetting, neutering, spaying and a home-safety visit,” the women said.
Also in attendance were Michelle Perrotti of Douglas and Mike Andrade of Worcester, for the Canine Company, which provides “Invisible Fence Brand systems that are high-quality and designed to withstand the wear and tear of weather.” An investment in the containment system “provides you with years of peace of mind, while providing your dog with years of security and playtime,” they said.
For Jeannie Hebert who is president and CEO of the Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce and her fellow organizers, the Pet Rock Festival is an exercise of love they hold close to their hearts.
“I was working the amateur dog show most of the day,” Ms. Hebert said. “But I love it! We celebrated twenty-three years, and honestly Wyman Gordon’s field is our best venue yet. But as you know the property has been sold, so we find ourselves once again homeless like the animals we assist. We are investigating other properties, but nothing concrete yet.
“The day was perfect, from weather to the attendance, which was just about 2000 give or take a few. More than we expected since COVID-19.
“Pet Rock Fest is a true charity,” Ms. Hebert said. “None of us are paid. We are a full volunteer force, and we give away as much funding as possible, just keeping enough seed money to produce the next year’s event. We offer grants to shelters and rescues as well as nonprofit animal advocacy organizations, and grants to private citizens, many elderly, to help pay vet bills for their companion animals.
“We are unique in that we are not the organization that benefits, but we are the organization that offers support to others in need. We also support educational programs, especially to students in elementary school, to lay the foundation of kindness, responsible pet ownership, and foster the concept of companion animal kinship. We promote adoption, but never allow adoption at the event, as it could be emotional. You can meet the dog/animal you are interested in adopting, fill out the paperwork and then follow up. We do not want the trauma of the dog being returned to a shelter.
“We also work closely with our legislators to introduce laws that will strongly prosecute perpetrators of animal cruelty. That cannot be tolerated. Ever! There are so many implications of what those who practice animal cruelty can do to others in society. Evil murderers like Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer and Charles Manson all started by torturing animals and graduated to humans. It is not a rite of passage, it is the making of a monster.
“A blessing of the animals was conducted by Rev. Chad McCabe from the Church of the Nativity in Northborough. He was great and so well-received. Among the many animals he blessed was a beautiful American bulldog suffering from cancer. So touching. There are so many heartwarming stories. Your companion animal is the best and most loyal friend you will ever have. We need to nurture them and keep them safe.
“Our mission is to educate, assist and support. Remember, “they can’t talk, so we will!”
Contact Rod Lee at [email protected] or 774-232-2999.