More than 1,000 people and more than 250 dogs turned out for the day's festivities, hosted in honor of National Dog Day, which is celebrated every Aug. 26 — on Monday this year.
Canine enthusiasts and spectators began descending on the botanic garden early Saturday for the festivities, which began at 10 a.m. and continued late into the afternoon.
Garden visitors received one free admission per leashed dog to enjoy a number of festive pooch activities, including a “Who’s That Doggie in the Garden?” photo contest, On the Lamb duck-herding demonstrations, adoptions via local rescue groups and a doggie raffle drawing.
Dogs were given a chance to show their creative side with “Pawcasso” paintings, which allowed canines to dab a paw on a colorful canvas before making a footprint on pre-painted pieces of artwork.
Bogie, a French bulldog, patiently panted while waiting in the sun to see his finished work — yellow and red prints on a plant.
His owner, Elizabeth Baker of Santa Barbara, said she and her brother, Brian, were enjoying some of the more than five miles of easy-walking, dog-friendly trails.
“It’s always a nice place to walk your dogs,” said Baker, noting that she might frame the painting and hang it near Bogie’s bed.
The doggy artwork was courtesy of volunteers at a booth for Operation Freedom Paws, a Gilroy-based nonprofit organization that trains veterans and others with disabilities to train their own service dogs.
Also in line with the military theme, local canine sculptor Susan Bahary visited the event for the first time this year, displaying her works of dogs and horses that were inspired by the sacrifice of veterans and the four-legged friends who keep them company.
“I’ve always loved dogs,” said Bahary, who also gave a presentation during the event. “We actually care so much about our animals.”
Visitors browsed a number of vendor booths with dog apparel and helpful care tips. Representatives of Santa Barbara's CARE Hospital, a lead sponsor of the event, was on hand to talk about the 24/7 services they offer, as well as to keep an eye out for any dogs that might overheat under the sun.
Ann Peyrat of Goleta brought her miniature dachshund, Chloe, and Chihuahua mix, Rosebud, dressing them in semi-matching outfits the color of watermelons — one of Chloe’s favorite foods.
“We had so much fun,” Peyrat said. “They get to meet new dog friends.”