The dog days of summer are winding down, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t treats to be had.
Dozens of pups, of all breeds and ages, gathered Friday for the final ice cream social of the summer hosted for dogs by Wiscoy for Animals urban feed store in Ferguson Township.
The social is held at the store every Friday in August, and gathers a uniquely furry crowd.
The event started as a customer appreciation event 19 years ago, said owner Wanda Crosby, who has four Labradors, ages 4 to 14.
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She said she was inspired to hold the social by human ice cream socials and the idea of having a family event on a Friday night.
“I just wanted something fun to do,” she said. “People are my customers, but my end-user is their dog.”
The business was tiny in the beginning, she said, and it was an easy way to invite people with their dogs.
“These days, people take their dogs everywhere,” Crosby said. “Twenty years ago, they did not.”
The social is held in front of the store in a roped-off section of the parking lot. The ropes are mainly for traffic control, she said.
Dogs and owners are greeted up front by members of Crosby’s staff and given a name tag identifying them as the pet’s owner and a copy of the rules.
“We have to keep a safe event,” Crosby said. “We’re bringing them in, putting food in front of them. We’re asking them to sit at a table with glass jars. They have to behave.”
The main rule is no nose-to-nose contact, she said. If they can’t go nose to nose, they can’t argue and that will prevent any biting.
“It’s because they ultimately will face each other,” she said.
No pups 4 months old or younger are allowed, either. Collars are checked by staff to make sure they are fitted correctly so no dogs can escape.
In almost 20 years, there have been no issues, Crosby said, “knock on wood.”
The event acts as a great training environment as well, she said. Some dogs have never been around so many of their own kind before, so it can be a lot to take in. They have space to socialize, stay around the outskirts or simply stay at a table.
Mike Radis, of State College, brought his 12-year-old rottweiler/Australian shepherd mix, Buddy. He said he and Buddy have been coming to the socials for about eight years.
Buddy mostly comes for the snacks these days, he said.
“He’s 12, he’s already done the puppy thing. He just wants (to be petted).”
The ice cream is yogurt-based, Crosby said, because yogurt is often used in dog nutrition. Friday night featured peanut butter ice cream for the dogs. Previous nights had pumpkin and blueberry flavors.
Katy Page and her 1-year-old German shepherd, Emma, traveled to State College from Le Roy, N.Y. Because Emma is still so young, Page kept her to the outside of the event.
“Being a year old, she’s never seen this many dogs in one place,” she said, “so it’s really good for her to sit and look.”
An old college friend of Crosby, Page said she’s been coming to the socials since the first year.
“I try to make at least one,” she said.