The kids love Daisy, but Daisy bores of them quickly.
The dainty Yorkshire terrier with a teddy bear face holds still as a mom and daughter pair approach. The girl, just a toddler, brightens when she spots Daisy and bends down to pet her brown and black fur. Mom pulls the girl away with a laugh and they stroll away toward the Central Park pavilion where the scene unfolds over and over and over with dozens of other dogs.
“She doesn’t bother with the kids,” says Rhona Lanigan, who holds Daisy by her leash underneath the shade of a tree at the 20th annual Fireplug 500 Walk for Animals. “But watch her. When she goes out for a walk — see, watch her now — she’ll go up to any of the dogs she sees. She loves dogs.”
Apparently. Daisy noses right up to a big old slobbering American Bulldog passing by and sniffs him. Lanigan and the dog’s owner share a nod of understanding and watch for a few moments before going their separate ways.
The English native quickly fell for man’s best friend when she moved to Rotterdam 40 years ago. Her first dog — Henry Charles — was 16 and suffering from cancer when Lanigan walked into the Animal Protective Foundation in Glenville and asked for help. The Old English Sheepdog was too sick and needed to be euthanized.
“We had called ahead of time because our vet couldn’t see him until 7 o’clock that night,” she recalls. “And they said bring him right over. They were so good to us and we were so appreciative.”
Years later, Lanigan still feels a debt of gratitude to APF and donates monthly to the nonprofit corporation, which shelters stray, neglected and abused animals in Schenectady County.
It’s Lanigan’s seventh Fireplug 500 walk. But it was the first for the owner of the friendly white bulldog who rubbed noses with Daisy.
Nine-year-old Tyson’s younger female sibling died last week after spending half a year on medication to treat a bad heart, said owner Michael Blowers.
“We knew that there was a lot of adopting and rescuing going on here,” he said. “So my wife wanted to investigate. Since the dog passed away, she’s been online looking at the all the rescue sites to find another rescue dog for him.”
Tyson is a barrel of a dog, with a stocky body, big head, strong jaw and a shiny white coat. The overwhelming presence of dogs in every direction distracts him and he tugs on his owner, nearly dragging the 45-year-old Schaghticoke man along behind him.
Big and small, all sorts of dogs converged on the grounds of Central Park Saturday — pugs, Labradors, Great Danes, Chihuahuas, the rare Dalmatian or Goldendoodle, and more.
The annual Fireplug 500 event usually draws about 400 to 500 dogs and about 1,000 people, said APF Executive Director Rosalie Ault.
Proceeds from the event support animal care, adoption and low-cost spay and neuter — services needed more than ever as APF runs short on space for cats and dogs at its Maple Avenue building. Scores of recent hoarding incidents have filled the shelter to near capacity and local officials are clamoring for a solution to the problem of stray animals.
“We see so much in the shelter that people would not even be aware of,” said Ault, who stands on the pavilion stage to watch over the exodus of humans and dogs moving toward Iroquois Lake.
Coming close to tears, Ault recounts the growing support from the community over the years.
“It’s just grown bigger and bigger every year, it’s just amazing,” she says. “It’s just so touching. And, I don’t know, I just get so filled up with emotion seeing people with their dogs and seeing how much they love them.”
James Tedisco, R-Glenville, looked less like a state assemblyman Saturday than he did a Welsh Corgi. Maybe it was the shirt he wore of a big Welsh Corgi face.
The well-known advocate for animals walks his 4-year-old Corgi, Gracie, around the duck pond in Central Park, chatting with fellow dog owners.
As the state and its municipalities consolidate and merge more services, Tedisco wonders why the Capital Region shouldn’t do the same with its animal care.
“Ideally, we could get three or four counties to come together to create a large animal shelter for the Capital Region, because right now we have a hodgepodge system of care for animals,” he said. “And I think, as a representative, we have to have a voice for those who don’t — the downtrodden, the disabled, the average taxpayer. They need to know there’s somebody in their government who’s there to be the voice for those animals who provide us unconditional love.”