SHOREWOOD – It could be said the day went to the dogs. But with 4,561 plastic eggs filled with dog treats and prizes scattered about the dog park at Hammel Woods, it was precisely the way Shorewood H.U.G.S. had it planned.
Saturday morning was the ninth annual Hugs for Hounds event to raise funds for the Forest Preserve District of Will County’s K-9 officer, Jullo.
Jullo’s partner and handler, Officer Dean Klier, said the Hugs for Hounds event funds a big part of Jullo’s budget, along with support from other businesses such as Alsip Nursery.
“He loves going to work every day. We try our best to keep drugs out of our parks and [find] people who have gone missing,” Klier said.
Jullo is so good at his job, he even has a special talent of finding lost keys. He was able to sniff out a set of keys from a snow embankment for the Lockport Park District, Klier said.
The warm, sunny morning brought out 240 dogs and 451 humans for the event.
Opal, a white pit bull mix, wore bunny ears and a skirt. Her owner, Leah Hopkins, brought Opal all the way from Griffith, Indiana, to hunt for eggs. It doesn’t hurt that her mom lives in Joliet, she said.
“This is so cute,” Hopkins said. “We didn’t realize how many people there would be.”
Two large coonhounds wore matching T-shirts with plastic eggs sewn all over them and white cotton tails to boot.
There were bonnets, bows, scarves and sweaters – and humans carrying Easter baskets and plastic bags ready to snatch up the eggs for the pooches.
One little pug named Champ never misses the event, said his owner, Mary Eichelberger of Joliet.
Although the rules state the dogs must touch or at least sniff an egg before their humans can collect it for them, Mary gave Champ a bit of assistance because he doesn’t move around much because of hip dysplasia. No one seemed to mind, and Champ was happy as a clam with the treats inside the eggs.
“He’s got to be here; it’s his fifth year,” Eichelberger said.
When all the eggs were collected, there were raffles and contests. Some dogs went home with coveted awards such as best outfit, smallest dog, largest dog, dog who looks most like their owner and dog who came from farthest away.
While Shorewood H.U.G.S. is mostly known for helping humans navigate difficult times by providing special services, Saturday’s event was about Jullo, H.U.G.S. President Susan Underwood said.
“We really believe it’s important to give back [to the community],” Underwood said. “One hundred percent goes to help the Will County Forest Preserve’s needs.”