COLUMBIA — With tiaras on their heads, a trophy in their owners' hands and a gift basket for later, Lola and Rocco received perks galore for being crowned Hound Dog Homecoming queen and king Sunday afternoon.
The crowning ceremony was one of the highlights of the Central Missouri Humane Society fundraiser, which brought Columbia pet lovers together to enjoy an afternoon of carnival events.
The third annual Hound Dog Homecoming included a doggy kissing booth, musical sit, dog paw painting and a duck pond.
Throughout the fundraiser, participants also entered their pets in various contests, including best dressed, biggest shedder, most unique and best trick.
The winner of each contest was determined by local celebrity judges Lauren Whitney from KOMU; Paul Pepper and James Mouser from "Pepper & Friends"; and Amanda Huhman and Libby Burkes, who helped the shelter win the Zootoo contest in April.
The homecoming queen and king contest required more work from the dogs' owners. For this competition, contestants worked from May 1 to this past Friday to raise money for the shelter. Whoever earned the most money would have their dogs deemed queen and king.
Patty Forister, executive director of the Central Missouri Humane Society, said competitors did everything from soliciting on Facebook to using fake smear campaigns against the other dogs in the competition.
All of the homecoming queen and king competitors earned a combined $4,076 for the Humane Society, which doesn’t include the amount the shelter made at Sunday's event. Organizers are still tabulating the final fundraising total.
Forister said the fundraiser was a success this year and is always a fun event.
“This event is a fundraiser and a friend-raiser because we get to hear how our (adopted) dogs are doing in their new homes,” Forister said. “We have the opportunity to rekindle our relationships with them.”
Columbia resident Doreen Frappier said she came with her beagle mix Kasey to support the shelter. Kasey won the best dressed contest in a pink and purple princess outfit.
“The Humane Society is a good resource for pets without a home and a good place for people to get pets without a home,” Frappier said.
Columbia resident Maria Geisler said she came with her dog Eleanor Rigby to enjoy all the dogs.
“It’s a fun event for the dogs, and it is nice to see everybody having fun with their dogs,” Geisler said.
As well as being a fun reunion for adopted pets, the fundraiser was also important for the Humane Society's finances. Forister said the shelter is living paycheck to paycheck despite winning the Zootoo competition in April.
Halley Taylor, shelter relations coordinator for the Central Missouri Humane Society, said the shelter is receiving a makeover funded by Zootoo, but they still have to pay for operational costs like electricity, pet services, supplies and salaries.
Forister said it costs about $880,000 a year to run the shelter, which is a little more than $73,300 a month.
The shelter manages to make a little more than that during some months, but other months they make a little less, so it ends up balancing out evenly, Forister said.
Because of this, Forister said they are not able to put any money back into savings, which means they are unable to increase the quality of life for the animals.
While the shelter still isn’t in the clear financially, it has made progress, Taylor said.
“It’s not as dire of a situation as we were in last year, but we are still very much in need,” Taylor said. “The days we are closed, we have to turn away animals, which is something we obviously don’t want to do.”
Although it won’t solve all of their financial problems, Forister said the Zootoo makeover will help make life better for the animals, but it is difficult to decide what should be done.
“We want to do a lobby area for the cats, but that would be a significant investment, and we want to improve the dog’s lives too,” Forister said.
To decide what needs to be done, Forister said they recently did a site plan to help determine how best to use their space.
In the end, Forister said the Zootoo competition is not only about the makeover but about the community involvement as well.
“This is the community's chance to get involved in playing an important role in building a new shelter,” Forister said. “And we can do it.”