DEVENS — Patrons, puppies and party-goers flooded Museum Field on Sunday for the second annual Devens Dog Festival.
The celebration — featuring four-legged performers, contests and 70 vendors — benefited the Clear Path For Veterans New England Dogs2Vets Program, which donates trained service dogs to local veterans.
"I think it brings the community of dog lovers together," to support veterans, said Clear Path New England founding member Scott Germain from the seat of a dunk tank.
The event was hosted in collaboration with the Rotary Club of Ayer, Shirley, Harvard and Devens, and the Rotary Club of Nashoba Valley.
Clear Path New England formed in Devens in 2017, modeled after Clear Path For Veterans of Upstate New York. In addition to career services, peer mentoring, therapy sessions and other programs, the nonprofit provides service dogs at no cost to veterans.
If a veteran already owns a dog, Dogs2Vets provides free obedience training.
According to Donna Bulger, another Clear Path founder, it can cost as much as $25,000 to train a service dog over a 2-year period. So far, the Dogs2Vets Program has placed four service dogs with veterans in need, with three more labrador puppies to be placed in the near future.
The three puppies-in-training are each named after fallen soldiers. Peney, the program's ambassador dog, was named for Army Sgt. Jonathan K. Peney of Georgia. The two other puppies are named for Army Maj. Gen. Harold Joseph Greene of Boston, and Army Maj. Justin Fitch of Wisconsin.
Around 500 community members attended the festival, according to Bulger. "And we have no idea how many dogs," said Lee-Ann Barkhouse, who works in community outreach for Clear Paths New England.
"Who Let The Dogs Out" blasted over the sound of squeak toys, barking and children playing. There were games of cornhole, food trucks, and even contests to determine which dog was the best tail wagger and the best kisser.
Vendors ranged from dog treat bakers to real estate firms to local artists.
"We thought it'd be a good way to support veterans," said Mariah Lopshire, whose husband owns Coonhound Cookies, a Rowley-based all-natural dog treat business.
The Lopshires have fostered around 10 dogs over the years, one of which went on to become a service dog for a veteran on the South Shore.
Tewksbury resident Joyce Hamlyn was excited to bring her dogs to the community event.
"We like getting them (the dogs) out," she said as she and her husband were pulled in every direction by their four leashed golden retrievers.
Dozens of owners lined up along an orange fence to watch a live demonstration by the Massachusetts Department of Public Safety Correction Service K-9 Unit. State Trooper Kyle Kilimonis performed tricks with his dog, Boomah, a 5 1/2 -year-old K-9 officer whose name is inspired by the Boston accent.
Six-year-old K-9 Officer Bruno, assisted by Trooper Brian McKenna, elicited cheers from the crowd when he sniffed out a hidden object.
"People love dogs. It's not a hard sell," said Joan Pena, incoming president of the Ayer, Shirley, Harvard and Devens Rotary Club. Last year, the event raised about $20,000 for Dogs2Vets.
Scott Dixon, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, sat in the shade with his 10-year-old service dog, Zoey. He was there to sell hand-crafted walking sticks, which he started making about five years ago as a form of therapy.
Dixon got Zoey when she was seven weeks old to help cope with post-traumatic stress disorder. He now volunteers with Clear Path New England.
"It's a wonderful thing," to have a service dog, Dixon said.
Nicole DeFeudis: @Nicole_DeFeudis on Twitter