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Once Every Year, This Whole Town Shuts Down To Celebrate Rescue Pets

Once Every Year, This Whole Town Shuts Down To Celebrate Rescue Pets

One day a year, the southwest Florida town where I live closes its main street to traffic — and opens it to rescue pets and the people who love them.

Last Saturday was Gulfport’s 12th annual Get Rescued festival.

It was a glorious affair.

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Gulfport’s charming (if I do say so myself) thoroughfare was blocked off to cars, so that 45 pet rescue groups and sanctuaries could show off their sweeties.

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These included, of course, lots and lots of dogs and cats.

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As well as miniature horses, who live at Apache Way Farm Rescue – a sanctuary for abused and neglected animals.

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Dogs, understandably, also found the horses to be fascinating.

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Of course you couldn’t miss the pig in a t-shirt reading “Insert Snacks Here.”

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Or the cuddly rescue skunks (who knew?).

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These guys belong to Florida Skunk Rescue — which has lots of good information on its website about where it is/isn’t legal to keep a pet skunk, and what kind of permits are required in order to be able to do this in your own home.

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While we’re obsessing about pet skunks, this one’s name is Oscar. He already has a loving home, and a mom — who bought this little straw hat for him from a booth at the festival selling clothes intended for Chihuahuas. “The only one that makes things that are small enough,” said Oscar’s mom — whose name I failed to get because I was too distracted by a skunk in a straw hat.

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Our sweet Khalessi Underdog of the Year, who recently underwent an awful health scare — was in the Passion 4 Pits booth with her dad Mike Fleury, who told me that Khalessi’s health has to be monitored closely now, but is thankfully currently stable.

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Then Khalessi tolerated me giving her a half-dozen kisses on her beautiful little face.

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Khalessi’s mom Stephanie Paquin said that on top of Get Rescued giving me the pleasure of being affectionate with Ms. K, Passion 4 Pits found promising potential adopters for several dogs, and some new foster families. “Gulfport Get Rescued is always a successful event for us,” she said.

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Gulfport’s mayor is all in, too — no surprise, because the joke in this wonderful town is that if you see a baby carriage being pushed around here, there’s more likely to be a dog in it than a human.

One of Mayor Sam Henderson‘s own dogs, in fact, came from Get Rescued in 2011. That guy is now big brother to a young stray Pit Bull who showed up at the house — and stuck around — about a month ago. You sure can’t say Gulfport isn’t welcoming to pets!

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Henderson and his wife Laura are in a band, Hot Tub Club, that performed at Tails at Twilight, the post-festival banquet.

“This is the second Get Rescued that we have played,” he told me. “Animals of all kinds have always been a part of my family. I can’t imagine it being any other way.”

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Organizer Suzanne King said she’s thrilled by how much Get Rescued has grown since she first got involved a decade ago.

Back then, she said, Get Rescued consisted of a few rescue groups setting up shop in a small courtyard. Every year, more rescues and vendors participate, and more of the town is given over to them.

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King estimates that Get Rescued and Tails at Twilight also raised about $17,000, which will be distributed to the rescues.

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She’s got ambitions for the festival to grow even bigger.

“It’s doing so much good for the community, and the animals, that it just feels really awesome,” King said.

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King can’t say exactly how many people and their furry companions were in attendance beyond that “it was a lot of legs.”

Nor can she put an exact figure on how many pets found their new families.

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Probably many. One, for sure.

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That’s Johnny the puppy.

Johnny was available for adoption at Get Rescued. Now he’s home — with King.

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You probably want to come to Gulfport for next year’s Get Rescued. Keep tabs on when that’ll be on the event Facebook page.

Featured image via SOAR

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