Dogs and owners invited to 'Dog-O-Ween'

Festival this Saturday is free, but donations will benefit Palo Alto Animal Shelter

A Palo Alto High School student is calling all dogs and their owners to come to Rinconada Park this Saturday, for Dog-O-Ween, a benefit for the Palo Alto Animal Shelter.

The free event will offer entertainment, food, "cute dogs" and prizes in categories like "best dressed" dog and "best couple costume" (dog and owner).

Any donations will go to Friends of the Palo Alto Animal Shelter.

The event is the brainchild of Paly senior Kristen DeStefano, who volunteers at the animal shelter and is a youth board member of Friends of the Palo Alto Animal Shelter.

"We're going to make it as Halloween-y as possible," she said in a recent interview at Paly.

"Some of my friends are just going to bring their dogs because they don't have a costume but, I don't know, I think the prizes (for dogs in costume) are pretty good."

Entertainment will be offered by the Paly girls guitar duo Remi and Chloe.

DeStefano says she begged her parents for a dog through elementary school, but with one family member allergic to dogs, they resisted.

Unbeknownst to them, she said, she was on the internet corresponding with breeders of "hypo-allergenic" dogs as a 10-year-old fifth grader. When she was 11, her parents finally relented.

She remembers picking out her puppy from a litter in the trunk of a car at a McDonald's in Los Banos. "All the siblings were black and Meeko, my dog, was the only one that was salt and pepper," she recalled.

Since last year, DeStefano has volunteered weekly at the Palo Alto Animal Shelter, where she walks dogs and helps train puppies.

"I just give them love, because they don't have any," she said. "You're not supposed to reach your hand in, so the only people they get to play with are the volunteers."

She has worked with other board members of the shelter friends group to gather a host of business sponsors for Saturday's Dog-O-Ween, which also is sponsored by the City of Palo Alto.

Catherine Kirkman, an adult member of the board, said Dog-O-Week will be a "unique cross-generational effort."

"I really enjoy passing out fliers and explaining that I am working on this at the direction of our high school kids," said Kirkman, a retired partner from Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.

"I was distributing fliers the other day around the Rinconada neighborhood and one of the people I ran into was the retired Walter Hays librarian, who knew Kristen from elementary school. … In a town where the dialogue can be sometimes fractious, it's nice to be working on a cause that everyone can agree on."

DeStefano herself will miss the set-up for Saturday's Dog-O-Ween event because she has to take the ACT test for her college applications.

But she expects to be there before start time with Meeko, who will turn seven this year and has seven different costumes, plus two Christmas outfits -- Santa and Rudolf.

Dog-O-Ween runs from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the bowl at Rinconada Park. Dog costume categories include best dressed, scariest dressed, best family-theme dressed and best couple costume.


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