Once Every Year, This Whole Town Shuts Down To Celebrate Rescue Pets

Written by: Arin Greenwood

March 1, 2016

One day a year, the southwest Florida town where I live closes its main street to traffic — and opens it to rescue pets and the people who love them.

Last Saturday was Gulfport’s 12th annual Get Rescued festival.

It was a glorious affair.


Gulfport’s charming (if I do say so myself) thoroughfare was blocked off to cars, so that 45 pet rescue groups and sanctuaries could show off their sweeties.


These included, of course, lots and lots of dogs and cats.


As well as miniature horses, who live at Apache Way Farm Rescue – a sanctuary for abused and neglected animals.


Dogs, understandably, also found the horses to be fascinating.


Of course you couldn’t miss the pig in a t-shirt reading “Insert Snacks Here.”


Or the cuddly rescue skunks (who knew?).


These guys belong to Florida Skunk Rescue — which has lots of good information on its website about where it is/isn’t legal to keep a pet skunk, and what kind of permits are required in order to be able to do this in your own home.


While we’re obsessing about pet skunks, this one’s name is Oscar. He already has a loving home, and a mom — who bought this little straw hat for him from a booth at the festival selling clothes intended for Chihuahuas. “The only one that makes things that are small enough,” said Oscar’s mom — whose name I failed to get because I was too distracted by a skunk in a straw hat.


Our sweet Khalessi Underdog of the Year, who recently underwent an awful health scare — was in the Passion 4 Pits booth with her dad Mike Fleury, who told me that Khalessi’s health has to be monitored closely now, but is thankfully currently stable.

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Then Khalessi tolerated me giving her a half-dozen kisses on her beautiful little face.


Khalessi’s mom Stephanie Paquin said that on top of Get Rescued giving me the pleasure of being affectionate with Ms. K, Passion 4 Pits found promising potential adopters for several dogs, and some new foster families. “Gulfport Get Rescued is always a successful event for us,” she said.

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Gulfport’s mayor is all in, too — no surprise, because the joke in this wonderful town is that if you see a baby carriage being pushed around here, there’s more likely to be a dog in it than a human.

One of Mayor Sam Henderson‘s own dogs, in fact, came from Get Rescued in 2011. That guy is now big brother to a young stray Pit Bull who showed up at the house — and stuck around — about a month ago. You sure can’t say Gulfport isn’t welcoming to pets!


Henderson and his wife Laura are in a band, Hot Tub Club, that performed at Tails at Twilight, the post-festival banquet.

“This is the second Get Rescued that we have played,” he told me. “Animals of all kinds have always been a part of my family. I can’t imagine it being any other way.”


Organizer Suzanne King said she’s thrilled by how much Get Rescued has grown since she first got involved a decade ago.

Back then, she said, Get Rescued consisted of a few rescue groups setting up shop in a small courtyard. Every year, more rescues and vendors participate, and more of the town is given over to them.


King estimates that Get Rescued and Tails at Twilight also raised about $17,000, which will be distributed to the rescues.


She’s got ambitions for the festival to grow even bigger.

“It’s doing so much good for the community, and the animals, that it just feels really awesome,” King said.

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King can’t say exactly how many people and their furry companions were in attendance beyond that “it was a lot of legs.”

Nor can she put an exact figure on how many pets found their new families.


Probably many. One, for sure.


That’s Johnny the puppy.

Johnny was available for adoption at Get Rescued. Now he’s home — with King.

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You probably want to come to Gulfport for next year’s Get Rescued. Keep tabs on when that’ll be on the event Facebook page.

Featured image via SOAR

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Written by: Arin Greenwood

March 1, 2016

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