San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Zaguate Festival: A Dog Day in March

The common canine, known here as the zaguate, was honored earlier this month at the National Association for the Protection of Animals’ (ANPA) ninth annual festival, held at Roosevelt Plaza in San Pedro, east of San José. A huge crowd of dogs and dog lovers turned out for the fun and to support the association.

Amid a tangle of leashes were found tiny poodles and Chihuahuas, while head and shoulders above the rest were Belgian shepherds and a mastiff. One golden lab had to work that day, but brought her owner along even if he couldn’t see the exhibits. About 120 volunteers helped keep order, and frequent announcements exhorted owners to clean up after their dogs.

Ringing the plaza were booths for canine clothes, which included dog-size Saprissa and La Liga soccer shirts, as well as flouncy dresses, multicolored shirts and hats to accommodate big ears. There were booths offering dog food, dog-grooming products, collars and leashes with bone designs and a mini-clinic where poor, unsuspecting pups got their shots and worm pills. The “flee” market was a popular stop for the humans, and ANPA’s own booth sold T-shirts sporting the association’s motto: “Don’t be a racist; adopt a zaguate.”

But the fun was in the contests in which owners showed off their pets’ talents and good looks. Dogs sang, ate cookies out of their owner’s mouth, climbed up their owners to sit on their shoulders and played soccer.

Some dogs, not understanding the seriousness of the event, screwed up and refused to perform, but Carola, a mini-biker in black leather, proudly roared around the ring with her owner.

Imaginations ran wild for the look-alike contest. One entrant had big floppy ears, black spots on a white coat and a long tail –and that was the owner! Some owners painted their faces to resemble their dogs, but mostly it was matching outfits in this category.

Then it was time to choose the king and queen of the festival. Contestants had to be genuine, well-cared-for, healthy zaguates.

King Mecha and Queen Lucía were presented with bags of Ascan dog food and trophies. But the real winners of the day were the 32 dogs from ANPA’s adoption center that found new owners. All had been abandoned but were now spayed or neutered, in good health and looking forward to a better life.

The festival’s goal is to promote good care for all dogs, to raise the image of the humble, mixed-breed dog and to support the association’s work, including low-cost spaying and neutering in communities, vaccinations and educational programs through schools, a radio program at 10:45 a.m. Saturdays over Radio Nacional (101.5 FM) and a magazine.

The association also has a cachi vachi (second hand) store at the Guadalupe-Moravia intersection, northeast of San José.

To help out or to adopt a dog or cat, call ANPA at 255-3757.


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