POSTCARDS FROM FLORIDA

Keys fests go to the dogs, ocean

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Dachshund Walk

Key West's Dachshund Walk is among the animal-themed events in the Florida Keys, a list that includes this month's Woofstock. (Florida Keys News Bureau / December 31, 2006)

One of the many things that I love about the Florida Keys is that the place has a quirky animal presence.

From the legendary six-toed cats at Ernest Hemingway's home to the roosters that wander among the outdoor diners at the Blue Heaven restaurant around the corner from the author's home, the critters contribute to the laid-back vibe.

And animals also are a more permanent part of the activities in the Keys. As a doxie owner, one of the items on my bucket list is attending (and maybe participating in) the annual Key West Dachshund Walk, a New Year's Eve tradition for seven years that has attracted as many as 200 wiener dogs for a short stroll along one of the downtown side streets to a finish line on Duval Street.

This month, there's another canine-themed event in Islamorada.

The third annual Woofstock Music Fair, set for Saturday at Founders Park at Mile Marker 87, has a name that's pretty irresistible.

Highlights of the free festival include an 11:30 a.m. "blessing of the pets" for doggie visitors, K-9 search and rescue demonstrations and an animal adoption village staffed by local rescue groups. There also will be a Rescue Me Mutt Strut, in which dogs available for adoption can show off for potential new owners, and pet agility competitions.

If your pet is more of a spectator than a competitor, visiting pooches can watch a demonstration by Ultimate Air Dogs, one of the best dock-jumping organizations in the country. There will be goodies for pets and people at vendor booths and live music by local bands, which will have plenty of competition for attention from the four-legged crowd. It runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. (keyswoofstock.com)

In another wildlife realm, the island's marine environment will be celebrated with music, art, kids' activities and educational exhibits at the Florida Keys Ocean Festival, a free event from noon to 6 p.m. March 24 at the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center, past Southard Street on Key West's Truman Waterfront.

The festival is presented by the Mote Marine Laboratory, which will create a living reef exhibit that showcases the region's unique ecosystem. Artist Pasta Pantaleo will paint a mural that will be auctioned to raise money for Mote's Protect Our Reefs program. (keysoceanfest.org)
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