For Amethyst Tymoch and many dog owners in the Mount Airy area, the town's dog park is a special place where both they and their dogs can socialize.
Tymoch, a member of the town's park and recreation committee, is now part of an email chain with people she's met at the dog park and one park user even hosted her dog's birthday there, providing treats for the other dogs and owners.
To raise funds for the park's landscaping needs, it is hosting its second annual 5K-9 Mutt Run and Walk Saturday in Watkins Park.
More than 100 participants and about 50 dogs showed up for last year's inaugural event, Tymoch said, enabling the park to pay for its landscaping for the entire year.
This year, the event will also raise funds for Tails of Hope Sanctuary, a nonprofit that rescues shelter animals who are in danger of being euthanized and places them in foster homes to give them more time to be adopted.
Larry Hushour said while the dog park's biggest goal is to provide a place for dogs like his cocker spaniel Jet and dog lovers to go, another huge priority is making sure the park isn't an extra burden for the town.
"In a small town like Mount Airy, you have limited resources like funding and manpower," Hushour said. "The people who help fund the dog park are the same people who use it."
The run and walk raises funds for the dog park, which was opened about three years ago, so the town doesn't have to, he said. The park also depends on volunteers and local Boy Scouts to help maintain it.
Boy Scouts working on their Eagle Scouts projects have completed numerous additions to the park, including benches, a dog waste container and a structure to provide shade, Hushour said.
On Saturday, participants, who can run or walk with their dogs, will compete for various prizes whether they are the first to finish the race, have their dog in the best costume or look most like their dog, Tymoch said.
People who pay to participate in the event will also have the annual dog park fee waived whether they are from Mount Airy or not, she said.
Overall, the event is an opportunity for the community to come together and support the dog park and a worthy nonprofit organization that helps animals, Tymoch said.
"The dog park fills a basic need for people who don't have big yards," Tymoch said. "It's also a great chance for dogs to get out and socialize which is really important."