Santa's best friends
HUNTINGTON — Jeff Bryson of Huntington already has received one of his greatest gifts in the form of his beagle-mix dog, Bandit.
Having a dog like Bandit in his life makes it all the more worthwhile for Bryson and his family to give back to their community any way they are able, which is how they found themselves placing Bandit on Santa's lap Saturday afternoon at Huntington's PetSafe Dog Park.
"We are a family of animal lovers, and having a dog park in the community is a great way to show what an animal friendly community we are," Bryson said. "Events like this one have an important part in developing relationships with people in the community and especially our dogs."
"Santa Paws" was at the park to kick off the holiday season as part of celebration of the completion of the first phase of construction on the park and the beginning of Phase II, said Jennifer Strechay, a member of The Foundation for the Tri-State Community.
"It is about the celebration of what we've achieved so far, and we're already looking forward to the next phase," Strechay said. "We've had a lot of first-timers to the park today, but they won't be first-timers anymore. That's the kind of thing we are looking to make happen."
At least 100 dogs and their families had their photos taken with Santa during the event, which was hosted by the foundation with the Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District.
In addition to the free photos, participants also received free bandanas, treats and PetSafe products, and no trip to the dog park would be complete without a little bit of socializing for the dogs and their owners.
There also was a donation jar for pet parents to use to make donations for Phase II of construction for the park, which will include the construction of additional benches, an informational kiosk, a water feature and agility equipment as well as the addition of shade trees.
Bryson, who along with Bandit was one of the first people to set foot onto the park when it was opened in June, said he hoped community members continued to support the park and the animal rescue efforts in Huntington.
"It's important for the community and the dogs because coming here helps us open up and get to know each other over this common interest in our pets," he said. "I would also say it's important to rescue because those dogs need love, and with community support like this, you have all of the resources to make it happen if given the chance."