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At Woofstock, every dog has its day in Tenafly

October 17, 2016 GMT

TENAFLY — They came from all over to walk the path at Municipal Circle Park on Sunday: dogs on all fours, dogs with three legs, and even a few dogs in wheelchairs.

Tails wagged and tongues lapped in unison. This was clearly no ordinary Sunday walk in the park. It was Woofstock, a communal gathering of the breeds and a fundraiser for the Tenafly-based animal rescue operation, PetResQ Inc.

Many of the dogs prancing Woofstock on Sunday had been rescued — saved from almost certain death by people willing to adopt them and pay their sometimes steep veterinary bills. Now these were back to “Pay It Forward,” in the words of Woofstock organizer Robyn Urman.

“The humanity is in how we pay it forward,” Urman said. The vibe at Woofstock was that people can heal dogs — and dogs can heal people.

Bette Kaplan of Tenafly arrived with Zippy, a French bulldog in a wheelchair. Four years ago, Zippy was left on the doorstep of an animal hospital in the middle of the night. One adoption, two back surgeries and one wheelchair later, Zippy rolled into Woofstock on Sunday.

Kaplan brought Zippy to Woofstock to participate in a fundraiser for CareforLifeandLimb.org, a non-profit dedicated to helping people with disabilities gain equal access to health care. Zippy was selling kisses for $1 a lick.

“He’s got an amazing personality,” Kaplan said of Zippy, adding that he’s a trained therapy dog. “He was left on a doorstep to die, but this is what people can do if they care. I take him to hospitals to visit kids who are sick. He gives back.”

Tami Luchow, the founder of Care for Life and Limb, has a prosthetic leg. She said some health insurance companies would cover only one prosthetic during a policyholders’ lifetime, so she launched Care for Life and Limb to change that and other inequalities in the health care system that affect disabled people.

“People with disabilities should be able to live their lives to the fullest,” Luchow said. “Access to health care should help them do so. But right now, there are many plans whose limitations hurt.”

Emma Campbell of Cresskill clutched Charly, a 17-year-old Chihuahua she rescued 10 years ago. “Two years ago, he had a stroke, but now he’s fully recovered,” Campbell said.

Ranger, a 9-year-old mutt, hobbles along on three legs. Abbie Hockstein of Closter doesn’t know how the dog got that way — he had three legs when she adopted him four years ago. “He’s a really good dog,” Hockstein said. “He keeps it positive. He doesn’t let his disability stop him.”

Dogs are working as healers at Pets for Vets, a non-profit that is setting up a North Jersey chapter. The organization provides shelter dogs and training to traumatized veterans — a 24-hour-a-day therapeutic connection that could be a life-saver.

“There are 22 veterans a day that commit suicide,” said Eda Coviello, who was working the Pets for Vets booth. “That’s a huge number. If they have a dog or a cat to go home to, then they know they are not alone.”

Woofstock was a canine carnival, in the spirit of the three days of peace, love and music of Woodstock. There were dogs in tie-dyes, dogs in kimonos, and even a dog dressed as a hot dog.

Peace and love was in the air as Bill Berloni, a Broadway animal trainer, announced the winners of the costume contest from the stage. First place went to Lunchbox, a Jack Russell terrier from Clifton who was dressed as Miss America.

“I love all dogs and love you all for coming here today,” Berloni told the crowd. He handed Lunchbox’s guardian, Vanessa Montesano, a doggie gift set as a prize. “We’re honored,” Montesano said, as Lunchbox posed for photos.

Berloni is the president of Theatrical Animals, which he said has trained dogs for 27 Broadway shows. “All of them were rescues,” he said proudly.

Caring for animals, inspires people to “get in touch with what it means to care for others,” he said. “When we rescue an animal, we’re really rescuing ourselves.”

Email: cowenr@northjersey.com