The CRPD’s “Bark in the Park” was im-paw-sible to miss

At 9:00 a.m. on March 16, hundreds of dogs ranging in color, shape and size gathered to participate in a morning filled with vendors, contests and more. Hosted by the Conejo Recreation and Park District (CRPD), the annual “Bark in the Park” welcomed all of Conejo Valley’s dog enthusiasts and their furry friends.

The morning began with a dog/dog-owner costume contest, with costumes ranging from Disney princesses to classic tourists. The judges carefully deliberated before announcing annual attendees Josh, Erin and Tara Wagoner’s Bernese Mountain Dog, Red, as the first-place champion with Tara and Red wearing matching Ariel costumes. “Red loves it…with the hundreds of dogs and all the smells, Red is just absolutely in dog-heaven right now,” Josh Wagoner said.

After the canine fashion frenzy, many hurried over to watch the day’s entertainment, Sky-High Flying Canines, a high-flying disc dog team that has competed in competitions across the globe from Switzerland to Japan. Performers Sora, Ranger, Kaia and Flare stunned the audience with their abilities to leap through the air, chasing down and catching frisbees across the yard and over obstacles, including the trainers. Kirby McIlveen, the dogs’ trainer, appreciates the positive impacts “Bark in the Park” has on both its human and dog participants. “[My favorite part of the event] is sharing the love of dogs and how everybody that watches is enjoying it. And then of course the dogs love performing and they love getting the attention and the applause, so it’s good all around,” McIlveen said.

People journeyed far and wide to participate in “Bark in the Park,” including YouTubers Vanessa and Veronica Merrell, whose dogs Guppy, Tiger and eight-month-old puppy Ellie placed in every competition in which they participated. The event drew the YouTubers in because of its friendly atmosphere for both dogs and owners. “I’ve gone to the carnival and I did a food truck event here, but this one stands out because I can actually bring my dog with me,” Veronica said.

Various vendors set up tents at the event, including the Ventura County Animal Shelter. Erika Sanchez, the shelter’s off-site adoption coordinator, has been attending “Bark in the Park” for three years and feels that the organization’s impact on the community is reached through events like “Bark in the Park,” “The more we attend, the more adoptions or information we are able to spread to different people,” Sanchez said.

In addition to being community-driven, “Bark and the Park” has been able to create a stronger connection between Conejo Valley’s dog owners, every year that the event takes place. The Wagoner family has traveled to dog competitions and events all over California and various states but feels the strongest connection towards this event. “I love how community-oriented ‘Bark in the Park’ is, and I love that the city puts this on,” Josh Wagoner said. “I just love that it showcases all the great stuff about Thousand Oaks and the Conejo Valley, and, yeah it’s just a great time, we look forward to it every year.”