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Come and stay. Community Dog Festival draws canines, people

Maddie, owned by Jackie Acosta of St. Charles, stares into the camera while competition for best trick goes on during Saturday's dog festival at Lord of Life Church in LaFox.
Maddie, owned by Jackie Acosta of St. Charles, stares into the camera while competition for best trick goes on during Saturday's dog festival at Lord of Life Church in LaFox.

CAMPTON TOWNSHIP  - Jacqui Schrank and Tony Clark already thought they have a good dog.

But Saturday, Schrank and Clark, of Elburn, received an inkling of just how talented Ace, their 18-month-old pitbull-Rhodesian ridgeback mix, could be, when Ace cleaned up in many of the contests at the inaugural Community Dog Festival at Lord of Life Church, west of St. Charles.

"This is good for him," said Schrank. "He needs experiences like this, to get out around other dogs and people.

"And, it's fun."

About two dozen dogs and more than 50 people turned out for the first-time event, coming to the festival at the church at Route 38 and LaFox Road despite strong, cold winds and temperatures more typical of November than late September.

The event was designed to help raise funds for the church's project of housing and supporting a comfort dog, named Chloe.

The Rev. Phil Ressler, pastor at Lord of Life Church, said he and his family house Chloe, who was provided to the church through Lutheran Church Charities. The church, in turn, dispatches Chloe to local hospitals and nursing homes or to the scene of traumatic events, potentially including deaths, natural disasters or house fires, among others, to provide comfort and companionship to people in times of need or distress.

"We have just started with Chloe, as we just received her not long ago," Ressler said. "But there are a number of expenses that come with accepting this responsibility, things like food, travel expenses, insurance and the like."

When Chloe arrived, church leaders and members of the congregation began brainstorming ways to raise the support needed, said Diane Roloff, a member of the church and chair of the committee that organized Saturday's event.

Roloff said the Lord of Life Community Dog Festival was copied from a similar event held at a church in Rockford.

"We downsized it a bit, as this was our first time doing it," Roloff said. "But we're looking forward to expanding it in years to come."

Participants at this year's event were able to have their dogs take part in a dog walk-a-thon around the church property, and in several contests to determine such things as which participating dog had "the waggiest tail;" could perform the best trick; could bark the loudest; and could catch the most tossed treats within 30 seconds.

Ace managed to place first for tail wagging, second for best trick, and third for treat catching.

Chris and Roy Dennis, of Elburn, brought their dog, an English pointer named Charlie, to the festival, as well.

Charlie placed second for "waggiest tail."

Roy Dennis noted that Charlie was gearing up for pheasant hunting season, so the weather did not phase the dog or his family at all.

And Chris Dennis also noted that the canine socialization opportunity was difficult to pass up.

"It's a really good opportunity to get out with the dog," she said.

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