*An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the police department that owns a bomb dog named Truman.
COLUMBIA — For the volunteers of Columbia Second Chance, the Paws in the Park event serves as a reunion for the staff and the dogs they rescued.
This year's ninth annual gathering will be held Saturday at Stephens Lake Park. For the first time, the organization has scheduled free educational workshops, where experts in the fields of animal nutrition, medicine and behavior will present.
"The beauty of it being at the park is that the conversation can move out of the tent after each workshop," director Valerie Chaffin said. "The speakers will be there for a little while longer to answer any other questions people might have for them."
In six, 30-to-60 minute sessions, speakers will provide pet owners with tips on their areas of expertise. They will talk about cat and dog behavior training, healthy animal diets and how to get your kids and pets to live more harmoniously together. Attendees can also learn about the MU Police Department* and its bomb dog, Truman.
The schedule for the workshops is on the Columbia Second Chance Facebook page and will be posted around the park Saturday.
Paws in the Park normally starts with a 5K, but this year there will be a 1.5 mile Mutt Strutt Fun Run, where people can walk around the park with their dogs to kick off the day.
"We changed (the run) this year to be a more casual, family event," Chaffin said.
Second Chance staff had planned a demonstration by the Big Muddy Dock Divers' dog team. However, the diving demonstration was canceled Friday because the water level of Stephens Lake is 4 feet lower than normal, Chaffin said. She attributes this to the drought.
The day is still event-packed. During the lunch hour, dogs will perform agility acts and choreographed musical routines.
"We will perform our musical drills during the program, things like a dog version of the square dance," said Ann Gafke, owner of the Teacher's Pet dog school and drill team coordinator.
People at the park can also bid on the 100-item silent auction, which includes a dog house, jewelry, pet store products and gift certificates from all around town. Animal rescue organizations and food vendors will set up stands. Second Chance will also bring many of their dogs to meet the public. Some families may find a new pet.
"It never ceases to amaze me how new people discover us courtesy of this event," Chaffin said. "A big goal of the day is just exposure, and this year also education."
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