March for the Animals is a yappy walk in the park

Diane Bateman didn't have a dog on her arm Sunday. She had a picture of one pinned to her chest — Molly, her beloved beagle that died six years ago at age 14 but, while alive, never missed a chance to join in the Maryland SPCA's March for the Animals.

So Bateman marched in Molly's honor along with her daughter, Margie Carney, and her year-old pup Darby Wish (named because Margie wished for a puppy for so long).

"It's a nice way to still do something with Molly and to support a great cause," Bateman said.

The women joined hundreds of dogs and their people who walked, pranced and romped through Druid Hill Park for the annual event.

Shelter executives, to say nothing of all of their four-legged support, couldn't have been happier with the sunny and cool weather. Executive Director Aileen Gabbey said she was hoping it might bring even more people out — and raise more money — than last year, when an estimated 5,000 people attended the event, bringing in more than $360,000.

The march is the shelter's biggest moneymaker, supporting, among other things, its efforts to find homes for about 3,000 cats and dogs every year.

The centerpiece of the event is a 1.5-mile canine walkathon around Druid Hill Lake. After that, pups could enter costume contests, try an agility course and play a dog version of musical chairs where they had to sit when the music stopped.

Crystal Parker brought her poodle, Jet Black, who's 15. Though it was Jet's first time at the March, he made himself at home, completing the walkathon, sitting for pictures and then having an animal meet-and-greet.

"He's meeting all the other dogs," Parker said. "He's having a good time."

She added that she got a bit choked up, seeing the masses of dogs and people, all together at the park trying to do some good for needy animals.

"So much bad is going on in the world," she said, "And to see people here with love and compassion, it brings out the tears of joy. It's so great."

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