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Costumes, canines and a cause

By DAWNE LEIKER

dleiker@dailynews.net

Dogs and their humans set out on a mission Saturday, not only to win the 5K race before them, but to raise money for a domestic animal refuge.

In its second year, Mutts and Monsters 5K and Costume Contest, a fundraising event for the Western Plains Animal Refuge, brought approximately 40 participants, some in costume and many tagging along behind their leashed friends.

Proceeds for the event are planned to benefit a nonprofit no-kill domestic animal shelter located near Ellis.

Renovations are nearly complete for the shelter, which is not yet accepting animals, said organizer Brendon McCampbell, Fort Hays State University senior.

"We're hoping to be open before 2012," he said. "It just depends on getting everything going."

As participants waited for the race to begin, dogs barked in excitement, pulling at their leashes and inspecting the other dog-racers.

Members from Friends of the Hays Dog Park were on hand to provide the pet owners with information about their project to develop a dog park in Hays. President of the organization, Kim Perez, said she was pleased with the fact that a site near Bickle/Schmidt Sports Complex has been identified for use as a dog park.

"I see all these dogs around here, and I think it would be great to have this kind of community out at the dog park," she said.

Nearby, a self-identified "lizard-guy" stretched his legs before the race was due to begin. Brad Freidenberger, Hays, and his pointer, Mollie, were ready to run their first race together. Mollie, he said, wasn't any more scared than usual upon seeing costumed runners and other dogs.

"She's always scared," Freidenberger said. "She's skittish. Even when my roommate comes home with his motorcycle helmet on, she gets scared."

Freidenberger, who assembled his costume with school play items he found in a thrift store in New Orleans, was a bit surprised more folks hadn't shown up to run in costume.

"This is what I'm all about," he said, pointing out his scaly-looking head gear.

Erin Renard, Russell, dressed as a jester said this would be the first 5K she and her dog, Pepper Ann, have run together.

"And she's never been on a lease," she said pointing to Pepper Ann, who was wearing a red jester collar. "She runs with me at home, but we don't need to leash her."