The second annual Dog Days of Autumn seeks to celebrate how pets improve mental health and to create a welcoming space for human interaction in Fort Wayne. Courtesy
During the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have learned how to navigate the "new normal" with social distancing and limited physical interaction. Seeing the need for neighborly connections and mental health support, a group called the Content Creators of Color (CCC) project in Fort Wayne took it upon themselves to host the first annual Dog Days of Autumn event in 2020.
To their surprise, it drew 250-300 people to The 07's Lutheran Park to enjoy pet and human interactions in an outdoor, safe space.
This year, at noon on Sunday, October 3, CCC will host its second annual Dog Days event, as part of a new Fort Wayne tradition.
Founded in 2020, CCC provides professional development resources for underrepresented voices and People of Color citywide. Co-Founder, RasAmen Oladuwa, calls the Dog Days event “a celebration of pets” and how they have contributed to people’s health and wellbeing throughout the global crisis, as well as an opportunity to dispel stereotypes about People of Color and pet ownership.
“Dog Days focuses on how our pets have helped us with our mental health and happiness, especially over the past year, being locked in the house and not being able to socialize,” Oladuwa says.
When the pandemic caused “stay at home” orders in 2020, the Allen County SPCA saw a wave of new adoptions, following national trends. Now, they are one of the lead sponsors of Dog Days.
Oladuwa adopted her own dog, Buddy Boy, through the SPCA and says he has helped her during the pandemic.
“I don’t think I would’ve gotten out and walked around the neighborhood or done as much without him,” she says.
Olivia Torres, left, and RasAmen Oladuwa, right, are Co-Founders of The Content Creators of Color Project, a committee of Start Fort Wayne.
Along with celebrating pets and mental health, Oladuwa says Dog Days is about bringing important neighborhood interaction back to Fort Wayne’s communities, and more specifically, inviting People of Color to participate. She stresses that the event is not limited to pet owners, and she hopes people from across the community will come out to interact with one another.
“Oftentimes, there are business or restaurant events, but not necessarily neighborhood events that invite others into our neighborhoods,” Oladuwa says. “So many businesses find themselves trying to hit that diversity mark that sometimes they miss the simple answer: They haven’t lived it, so they don’t know how to market to it.”
Dogs can be a source of mental health support during the pandemic.
CCC wants to bridge gaps in local neighborhoods so people of all races feel comfortable participating. Since hosting its first Dog Days event last year, the group has hosted other events, like their recent Juneteenth celebration that invited participants to hear from prominent African American speakers at Wunderkammer Company contemporary gallery.
During their 2021 Dog Days of Autumn event, Humane Fort Wayne will show adoptable dogs, and groups will teach children how to safely interact with pets. The event will also feature free “pawdicures” for furry friends from Kandi Cuts Salon and Spa, free training sessions with Halo Dog Training, natural and organic treats, and artwork by the local artist Burger Babie.
In addition to the SPCA, the event is sponsored by the Thrivent Grant, a grant from Pastor Paul St. John Lutheran, intend to help the community thrive, and Bienestar Sin Fronteras (Wellness without Borders), an organization helping People of Color and those entering the U.S. with their mental and physical wellbeing.
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