The magic that is Schnauzerfest
It’s been three weeks since dogs and their human companions were out walking, across the country, united in one goal – to make Schnauzerfest a success. It’s impossible to know how many dogs took part, but a conservative guess would be several hundred. There were 37 walks organised, with all but one going off successfully (sadly one didn’t run due to illness). From Cornwall to Orkney, Essex to Sunderland, Wales to Kent, people organised and hosted groups of all sizes and ensured the country’s schnauzers came together in a weekend of philanthropy and enthusiasm that deserves much celebration and thanks to all involved. There’s a reason we don’t know how many dogs and people attended, or how much money exactly any individual walk raised; we take a strictly egalitarian approach, everyone’s contributions large, small, obvious and discrete, all are as valued as each other. People had the choice to donate online ahead of any walk, or afterwards, or to the hosts on the walks; no-one takes any register or checks any payments are made. The ‘honesty-box’ works in the Schnauzerfest community. Some walks raised additional money through sales and raffles, and every penny has gone directly to the charities we’ve supported this year, Diana Brimblecombe Animal Rescue Centre and East Midlands Dog Rescue.
The main raffle beautifully illustrates the generosity that imbues Schnauzerfest. We had donations of prizes of all kinds, including something brilliant: not one, not two but THREE holiday get-aways. To have such enticing prizes goes a long way to raising ticket sales, and we weren’t disappointed, ticket sales closed at £2574.
Success can be measured in many ways, any of which if we throw at Schnauzerfest, we can emphatically tick the success box:
• Money raised – a dizzying £13, 573 which with Gift Aid will tip the total over the giddy heights of £15,000
• Awareness for the cause – no-one coming into contact with those involved with Schnauzerfest can have missed the point of it: supporting the work of animal rescues. The awareness of the work done by rescues, the demands they work under, the help that’s needed and which they provide to animals in their care, at great expense, all this has been imparted far and wide through the prolific efforts of many. Alongside attention to rescue work, at the heart of Schnauzerfest lies the reality of what puppy farming does to dogs. Both of the charities that we raised money for this year, take in many dogs from puppy farms, dogs damaged physically and emotionally by the brutalities of the industry. Spreading familiarity with this has certainly been accomplished this year.
• Willingness and motivation to be involved – great, generous, helpings of this measure ran through many months of preparation for this year’s October weekend of walks. So many people got involved in the weeks leading up to it by making, buying and selling a variety of handcrafted, unique items. There was even a fun and well attended Woof Factor Schnauzerfest Dog Show before the weekend. All these combined efforts even before the walks got underway, raised substantial sums. But again, as well as the money, the interest stirred was immeasurably valuable. Each individual who came up with ideas and honed and shared their creativity in the name of Schnauzerfest deserves a smashing great big wet-tongued-kiss on the lips from every dog that will benefit from their talented efforts, and they will be many.
And then the walks themselves: the weekend saw a profusion of keenness to get out and walk with our dogs, join up with others and share the joy of seeing dogs happy and active along with their humans. The numbers on walks ranged from small to enormous; whatever the size of attendance, the overriding theme throughout was simple, it was a weekend to be out and sociable, enjoying canine and human company. There were dogs – and people – across the age and health spectrum. Some were there against the odds, all enjoyed their days out. Sadly we know that three schnauzers have passed away since the weekend, but, we know that their lives were happy, and enriched those of the humans they shared them with. And this is another theme of Schnauzerfest, the ability that dogs have of showing us how important it is to live right now, to enjoy each day that we have and to share our lives with our dogs in the best ways we can. The money we raise goes directly to helping other dogs experience this. And this is the battery of shared passion that powers the success of Schnauzerfest: an enthusiastic commitment from many, to help animals who are less fortunate than our own pets.
As this is the second successful year of Schnauzerfest, there’s been a need to do some analysis and reflection in order to ensure that it continues in 2016 to be as good as it is, or dare I dream, even better. There are a few challenges with any event that grows into something unexpected. Already rumblings about the possible need for more rules, and tedious things like public liability niggle away in my mind; they’re the antipathy of how I view Schnauzerfest. But there were a few issues on a handful of walks where officialdom threatened to creep in and spoil the unrestrained, relaxed and free nature of Schnauzerfest – something I definitely want to retain. In fact, this is one of the main reasons that it is such a success – the lack of irritating officialdom, the cooperative nature of it, the magic that’s released when people do things more or less their way with a common aim and infectious spirit of collaboration.
When we boil it down to its component parts, it’s a weekend where people get together with friends and their dogs and walk. Much like many weekends of the year, with no more rules needed. The fact people donate money while they go, shouldn’t change this. But, time will be spent pondering a few details so that we can ensure we keep the magic growing. One obvious challenge is that the larger the individual walks become, the more the threat of interference from ‘officialdom’ starts to appear. I’ve always felt that smaller walks work well, having two dogs that aren’t great in large crowds, I know many will also like smaller walks. Schnauzerfest is a sociable beast and I’m sure all future walks will evolve as they are meant to. We have a year to get out looking for ideal locations and put our thinking caps on for innovative fundraising ideas to bring in. We already know plans are afoot for new unique crafty creations to be available from our wonderful creative-contingent. Best start saving some pennies for the 2016 temptations.