It’s pawsitively sweltering outside — the perfect time for Tucsonans to join local independent retailers at Plaza Colonial in celebrating the Third Annual Dog Days of Summer to help homeless furry friends of the Humane Society of Southern Arizona.
“When we started this a few years ago, my daughter was going to be here all summer and it gets so hot that we decided to do a fun art show in July to break it up. We thought of the saying, ‘dog days of summer,’ and we have this artist, Louis Mason, who paints dogs and was very much interested in supporting the animals. We decided to make a donation to the Humane Society, and it all started there,” said Jane Hamilton, event organizer and owner of Jane Hamilton Fine Art.
Fast forward to the event on July 25 that has expanded to include about a dozen local retailers and restaurants as well as a partnership with The Art Institute of Tucson, whose students design and create canine clothing and accessories modeled by HSSA shelter dogs in the Doggy Fashion Show.
Last year the family- and pet-friendly benefit raised almost $2,000 for the HSSA, a number that Hamilton hopes to double this year as awareness increases.
“There are so many events that fill the calendar from October through May and it is nice to do something in the off time. Lots of retirees and students leave town, but so many people who live and work here stay, and this is something fun for the whole family to do,” Hamilton said.
The evening event also offers the opportunity to showcase the Plaza Colonial boutiques, galleries, restaurants and shops along with city and mountain views at the southwest corner of Skyline Drive and Campbell Avenue.
Hamilton describes the venue as “the most beautiful plaza in the city with its courtyard and nice, meandering outdoor spaces.”
“Lots of people don’t know we are here. We are all independent, local owners and we say, ‘If you want to shop green, shop local. Shop the people who make their lives in Tucson,’ ” said Hamilton, who opened her Tucson gallery in 2001 and represents 40 artists in a variety of mediums including paintings, sculptures, bronzes, glass, jewelry and furniture.
Hamilton emphasized that promoting awareness about the humane society, which currently houses 465 homeless pets, is also a driving force.
“It is nice to do something fun to bring people together and to benefit not only ourselves but the animals who can’t defend themselves and need our help to be fed and adopted and taken care of. It is a win-win,” she said.
Fundraisers such as the Dog Days of Summer are essential to the HSSA, which receives no government funding to aid the 8,000 animals that pass through its doors annually, according to Public Relations Lead Samantha Esquivel.
She said that while springtime is particularly busy during puppy and kitten season, the organization is in constant need.
“Year-round it is always a struggle and as a nonprofit, we are completely reliant upon the community to keep us afloat. Any donations we get from fundraisers like these go to a great cause and go directly back to the animals to help get them into forever homes,” she said.
About 1,600 volunteers contribute time and effort to the HSSA, which offers foster care opportunities and provides a range of services including low-cost spay and neuter services for 12,000 animals annually, low-cost vaccinations and education and outreach to teach proper care for pets.
While the volunteer figure may seem high, Esquivel said that many volunteers serve only one-time or seasonally, so there is still great need, particularly for those interested in fostering animals.
Events such as Dog Days of Summer not only raise funds, but involve the community and raise much-needed public awareness about assistance and volunteerism and for the HSSA.
“This is kind of a tradition that we want to keep going,” Esquivel said.
“These community events not only help to build awareness about animal homelessness but also education, shelter and placement and prevention. While we do serve pets, our overall obligation is not only to serve pets but also the people who love them in our community.”