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December 10, 2010 > Return of the pet parade

Return of the pet parade

By Simon Wong
Photos By Simon Wong

Downtown businesses, the City of Hayward, Hayward Area Parks and Recreation District and Hayward Animal Shelter Volunteers sponsored a very successful Santa Paws Parade along B, Watkins and C Streets from Foothill Boulevard past City Hall to the park around Hayward Public Library.

The drizzle failed to dampen the festive spirit on Saturday, December 4, 2010, with more than 100 pets participating on foot, in floats or cradled in their owners' arms. Councilwoman Barbara Halliday, City Clerk Miriam Lens and Jason Huggett (The Heart Foundation for Dogs) formed the judging panel with Hayward Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Kim Huggett as the event's announcer and Dr. Doris Yates (Cal State University East Bay and Friend of the Chamber) as vote counter. The Chamber's Office Manager Susan Ojeda-Combos was Leader.

Animals of all breeds, shapes and sizes competed in Best Float, Best Group Entry, Just Plain Cute, Best Dressed, Best Holiday Dressed and Best Owner/Pet Look-alike categories. The majority of entrants were dogs with a few feline cousins making an appearance, many courting the judges' attention.

There were some clever ideas for costumes. Jennifer Jervis and Boston terrier Zoo arrived as a lion tamer and lion, respectively. Jervis crocheted and knitted Zoo's mane, coat and tail and donned a stylish interpretation of circus garb - a red ringmaster's blazer complete with jabot, miniature top hat and bull whip. Another small canine, clad in a black coat with a broad, white streak along its length, masqueraded as Pepe Le Pew.

Grand Marshal Mayor Mike Sweeney was accompanied by 80-year old Helen Bignone and her six-year old Yorkshire terrier Deuce who was dognapped and sold at the end of October but reunited 11 days later with his rightful owner. Bignone was distraught at the loss of her loyal companion.

The companionship, loyalty and intelligence of a pet cannot be underestimated. People know the true story of Greyfriars Bobby, the Skye terrier who guarded the grave of his master, John Gray, in Greyfriars Kirkyard (in Scotland) for 14 years before passing away himself in 1872. They are also familiar with author Eric Knight's Lassie, the fictional collie featured in the short story Lassie Come-Home which was published in the Saturday Evening Post in 1938 and as a full-length novel in 1940. Similarly, Jack London's Call of the Wild features Buck, a Saint Bernard/sheepdog, as the main protagonist. These stories were worthy of the silver screen.

In November, Hayward residents Darryl Steen, his wife and daughter were saved by their dog Diamond. The canine family member's barking awoke the household in the middle of the night. They realized something was amiss because Diamond seldom barks. They smelled smoke, discovered the living room ablaze and were lucky to escape with minor burns. They bear the physical scars of their ordeal and still wear some protective garments but are thankful to be alive.

The 2010 Santa Paws Parade is the return of a Hayward tradition. Originally organized by the Lions Club, pet parades began in the city in 1925 and attracted families from far and wide. Hayward's annual parade became the largest in Alameda County with prizes for categories such as Cutest Pet and Best Pet/Owner Look-Alike. The Hayward Pet Parade was a community event that families anticipated with excitement every year.

"In 2007, we had a much smaller parade than today's event but the grand parades stopped in the 1950s. This year's organizers hope an annual pet parade will bring back families to the Downtown as part of the Downtown Area revitalization. The Santa Paws Parade is the latest addition to the popular Light Up the Season tree lighting ceremony in the Historic Downtown Hayward," explained Gloria Ortega who galvanized support for the 2010 event and is the city's Redevelopment Project Manager.

"The Parade raised approximately $2,000 to support homeless animals. It's still possible to donate to the Santa Paws Fund which will benefit the Hayward Animal Shelter by visiting The monies will supplement the Shelter's funds to buy blankets, pillows and pay for operations the homeless animals need to improve their quality of life," concluded Ortega.

The winner of each category and all entrants received rosettes. Visitors and parade participants were entertained by tap-dancing Christmas trees, had their pictures taken with Santa, shopped at the pet boutique, met Sparky the Fire Dog, petted pets from the Hayward Animal Shelter and were able to adopt. Children enjoyed pony rides in front of Hayward Public Library.

For more information about animal adoption and to donate, visit and Alternatively, call Hayward Animal Shelter at (510) 293-7200 ext 7 or visit the Shelter at 16 Barnes Court (at Soto Road and Jackson Street), Hayward.

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