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Relishing dog days of Somerville

Canines and their owners mingle at festive Pet Palooza weekend gathering

Cookie, owned by Jennifer Hammel of Somerville.

Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff

Cookie, owned by Jennifer Hammel of Somerville.

SOMERVILLE — Full-body massages, bowls of meat-flavored frozen yogurt, and various canines turning their soulful eyes to a pet medium, finding a way to tell their humans just what belly scratches feel best.

These were the ultimate dog days of summer. The Somerville Pet Palooza hosted by som|dog — the city’s dog lovers’ group — supplied two days of play last weekend at Assembly Row for thousands of humans and their furry friends.

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“When you have a dog, it can be a very solitary thing,” said Clay McCormack, 30, a Somerville resident who came with Plissken, a 2-year-old Labrador retriever/Great Pyrenees mix.

“It’s nice to meet other people who have dogs that you can socialize with, or learn some tips from,” said McCormack, as the big white dog wearing a snappy red collar gently wagged his tail. “Or it’s just an excuse to pet dogs.”

A total of about 1,100 people attended on Saturday, and approximately 3,200 on Sunday — when the weather was nicer — said Brian Davis, president and chairman of som|dog.

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Davis said the gathering aims to promote local businesses and educate the public about dog sporting events. The local nonprofit works to promote responsible dog ownership in Somerville and the surrounding areas.

“It’s about building a new neighborhood for dog owners,” Davis said.

Janice Zazinski of Arlington, who works as a pet massage therapist, said the festival is a great way for dog owners to learn about her business. Most of her customers kicked back and enjoyed the rub, though one little white dog was so excited by the surrounding activity, it jumped up and down while she tried to massage.

“This is my life joy,” she said.

Dogs could taste gourmet treats, have a professional photo taken, or try a fitness class. Residents could sign up to adopt or foster a homeless dog. There was a Frisbee tournament and a regional aquatic competition in which dogs jump into a 30,000-gallon pool and are measured in three categories: height, speed, and distance.

During jump time for beginners, one black Lab went to the edge of the pool, sniffed, and retreated several times before eventually leaping into the water to grab a toy. The crowd watching went wild.

Megan Loomer, 35, of Somerville, said that it took a lot of encouragement to get her Newfypoo named Moe — a blend of Newfoundland and standard poodle — into the water, and that he won’t be competing on the national level any time soon.

“He got up to the edge, got 2 feet up over the edge, and finally his butt went over,” she said.

As a non-Massachusetts native, Loomer said that events like these are a way to introduce her to the area.

“It’s the camaraderie,” she said. “People who own dogs tend to like other people who own dogs.”

Micaila Britto of Mansfield bought her bulldog, Molly, some peanut butter and banana frozen yogurt as a treat, and it didn’t last long in the bowl.

Sammy, owned by Donna Culbert of Quincy.

Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff

Sammy, owned by Donna Culbert of Quincy.

Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff

Massage therapist Janice Zazinski with Winston.

Britto said the Palooza is an opportunity for Molly to “just play” with other canines.

But she said Molly would not be jumping in the pool, even though she likes the water.

“Bulldogs are very heavy,” said Britto, 44. “So they sink.”

Robin Moxley, a Woburn resident whose canines compete in extreme distance and disc catching, said these sports help her stay active and bond with Cricket and Butter Bean Bailey.

“It keeps me young,” said Moxley, 50, who works as an accountant. “I have a stressful job during the week, and a way to release the stress is to go out with my dogs.”

She said attending an event like Pet Palooza “is more for me” than for her dogs.

“I love being around dog people,” she said. “[They] are very sociable, and have compassion.”

Andrew Pandolph, also of Woburn said his chihuahua, Sadie, is “cooped up” in the house during the week, and that events with other dogs help her to socialize.

“She was a rescue, so she’s skittish,” said Pandolph, 28.

While Sadie was being held by his wife, Heather Pandolph, 29, a young girl approached with a treat and tried to squish it into the pint-sized dog’s mouth.

“Oh, she’s a baby,” the girl said.

“She’s a magnet for children” because of her size,” Heather said after she explained to the girl that Sadie would not be getting any bigger.

Heather Pandolph said she bought lots of dog treats at Pet Palooza, including some from Brownie’s Barkery , which makes all-natural goodies in Maine that are sold in specialty stores and at farmers markets.

“It’s good to stock up here and support the local businesses,” she said. “It’s not hard to spoil a dog that you love.”

Katherine Landergan can be reached at katherine.landergan1@gmail.com.
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