MARQUETTE - Ann Brownell is not a dog owner but she is in charge of a special event for pooches.
"The cat lady runs the dog walk," Brownell said with a chuckle.
As chair of the upcoming Strut Your Mutt event Sept. 7, Brownell is thrilled with the response to the event, which raises funds to help homeless pets at the Upper Peninsula Animal Welfare Shelter and is now in its eighth year.
Participants walk their dogs down the bike path at Mattson Lower Harbor Park as part of the 2011 Upper Peninsula Welfare Shelter Strut Your Mutt charity walk for homeless animals. This year’s event is set for Sept. 7, but preregistration closes Saturday. (Journal file photo)
"It's a miracle the amount of support our shelter gets from the community," she said. "Strut Your Mutt grows every year."
The idea for Strut Your Mutt - which takes place in Mattson Lower Harbor Park in Marquette - came from a coworker of Brownell's.
"She had to rehome her dog eight years ago. It was so hard for her to bring him to a shelter, but after visiting there, she was so impressed and grateful he was able to be rehomed," Brownell said. "She wanted to do something for the shelter and came up with the idea for the dog walk and for the place, the Lower Harbor park."
Personal reasons caused Brownell's coworker to be unable to follow through, so Brownell took over the event.
"That first year, we raised $10,000, which was a huge deal for the shelter at the time," she said.
Registrations postmarked or submitted online by Saturday will be $15 for adults (age 16 and up) and $5 for youth. Preregistration affords the entrant the chance to be in a drawing for his/her dog to become Leader of the Pack, which earns a number of prizes.
But folks with or without dogs to strut can show up at the event Sept. 7 to take part.
"That morning you can register and walk," Brownell said. "Or you can register even if you don't have a dog and be there for all the fun. There's a lot of fun in just a few hours."
That fun includes raffles and coffee and treats donated by a number of area businesses to help UPAWS with its goals.
"Our goal this year is $24,000," she said. "We made over that last year when our goal was $22,000."
As the biggest single fundraiser for UPAWS, Strut Your Mutt has become a favorite event locally.
"What I'm most proud about is that this is a grassroots effort," Brownell said. "It is a success because of community support. People register then ask their friends, their neighbors and their relatives to help the shelter by making pledges.
"Whether it's one dollar or one thousands dollars a person brings in, every single dollar is important," she said. "Everyone who helps is important."
That includes the Whitley family from Negaunee.
"I decided to participate because I thought it would be something fun to do as a family and we are animal lovers," said Stacy Whitley. She's participating along with her husband, Ryan, and her daughters Haylee, 8, and Delanee, 7.
"I also want to teach my daughters the importance of community involvement and giving back to the community," Whitley said. "This is our first year participating in Strut Your Mutt. The girls are very excited."
The Whitley family includes a mutt who will strut.
"Our dog was rescued from UPAWS in 2011. Her name is Jazzy and she is a Jack Russell Terrier mix," Whitley said. "I know my girls have a tutu that I am sure they will think is fun to have Jazzy wear to Strut Your Mutt."
For more information on Strut Your Mutt or other UPAWS programs, visit upaws.org.
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253.