Dogs are commonly referred to as “man’s best friend.” Elizabeth Taylor once labelled them “some of her best leading men.” The canine’s ability to love unconditionally is a universally accepted dogma, if you will.

Rosedale Park, located in the city’s near-Westside, was crawling with furry friends of all shapes, sizes, and breeds Saturday during the fifth annual Bark in the Park – Perrito Grito. The family-friendly pet fiesta summoned several hundred San Antonians who have at least one thing in common: their love for their four-legged companions.

Talk About It!, the San Antonio Area Foundation‘s animal no-kill program, collaborated with local animal advocacy groups such as the PetCo Foundation, SpaySA, and SeaWorld San Antonio to unite pup pals from across the city and shed light on what it means to be a responsible pet owner in San Antonio. The festival offered free on-site spaying, neutering, microchipping, low-cost shots, and several fenced-in areas full of adorable puppies looking for good homes.

Conjunto Heritage Taller and Adam Johnson & the Pay Me’s provided the musical backdrop as kids cuddled puppies, parents munched on bites from KHill BBQ Company, and a cool breeze ruffled through the manes of festival goers.

Bark in the Park featured three pet contests which lifted spirits and mustered broad smiles: the best dressed category displayed dogs’ and owners’ fashion sense while best trick offered a glimpse into contestants’ acrobatic and intellectual skills; the look-alike competition showed just how deep the bond between dogs and their owners can be.

Bellin, a stately husky, was a particularly prominent attendee with the heartwarming story of survival.

“He came to Texas Husky Rescue in May 2011. He had been beaten and starved – the neighbors had reported severe abuse,” his owner Kassia Fontenot said. “The City came out and … his owner was arrested. My husband and I fostered him until January 2012, when [we] officially adopted [him]. Then in February 2013, he became a registered therapy dog. He’s been working at the Children’s Shelter, the Children’s Bereavement Center, and the Methodist Hospital for the past few years. The best story is him working with the children at the Children’s Shelter because with his history of abuse the children really connect to him. It’s a beautiful story that came [full] circle, so to speak.”

Bellin even has a Facebook page with more than 8,000 Likes.

Area Foundation Program Officer Gavin Nichols, who owns four cats and three dogs, said San Antonio is making great strides toward becoming a no-kill community.

“In 2016, the City’s Animal Care Services had an 89% live release rate for the whole year, so we are very close to being no-kill,” he said. “Since 2007, we have been providing marketing and education and organizing events like this, so that we can promote ‘Care. Adopt. Neuter.’”

Sondra Payne, “mom” to Max and Cuailnge, pronounced “Cooley,” is part of a meet-up walking group called Nature Hounds.

“I got him on St. Patrick’s Day, so I had to give him a good Irish name,” Payne said. “We do beach excursions, we go to rivers and lakes, and we hike different state parks. Max’s favorite thing is going downtown, especially at night, because their harnesses light up and he gets a lot of adulation up and down the River Walk. It’s helped him … be a much better companion.”

The unconditional love that dogs show their owners was apparent at Bark in the Park, as was the fact that that love goes both ways.

Ellie, 2, admires the puppies for adoption at the 5th Annual Bark in the Park – Perrito Grito in Rosedale Park.
Ellie, 2, admires the puppies for adoption at the fifth Annual Bark in the Park – Perrito Grito in Rosedale Park. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Bonnie Arbittier worked as a photojournalist for the San Antonio Report.

Before moving to San Antonio in 2004, Hanna was a competitive rhythmic gymnast in her native Austria. She earned degrees from St. Mary’s University and the Texas State Graduate College before joining...