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Monday, May 20, 2024

What can be better than heading downtown for one of the largest happy hours and bringing your best friend — well, best furry friend — along?

On the first Friday of each month, the Pledge 5 Foundation puts on an event with a different theme.

This month’s theme was “Dog Days of Summer,” and it encouraged participants to bring man’s best friend downtown from 5 - 10 p.m. for dog-friendly fun, games and treats.

The city of Gainesville recently passed an ordinance that allows dogs to dine with their owners at restaurants downtown with outdoor seating options.

The optional permit costs $250.

It seemed appropriate to spread the word by dedicating the first Friday to dogs.

Among the attractions were more than 20 dog-friendly venues, a silent auction, doggy ice cream and baked goods, a K-9 photo booth and a doggy awards show.

The event was a huge success, Pledge 5 member and volunteer Regina Hogan said.

There were at least 100 dogs and even more people that came out.

The first Friday event included discounts at 30 local bars, Hogan said.

“Even if a person does not want to engage in the specific theme they can still enjoy the festivities and discounts,” Hogan said.

Haley Russell, a speech-language pathologist at Shands Rehab Hospital, rolled her dog Maggie down the sidewalk in a stroller.

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The adorably funny bulldog sat back in the shade while crowds gathered around to take pictures despite the fact that she was sporting a Georgia Bulldogs collar.

The 8-year-old English bulldog was quite the princess, getting chauffeured around by her owners.

“Maggie is one spoiled baby,” Haley said.

“She was born on Cinco De Mayo so we have a party for her every year: ‘Cinco De Maggie.’”

Haley and her husband Todd Russell have wanted to attend First Friday for a while now, and once they heard it was “Dog Days of Summer,” they knew they had to go, Haley said.

UF grad student William Jenkins, 25, attended the event as well with his new German shepherd puppy, Arya, who is 8 weeks old and timid but feisty.

“Arya and I had such a great time going in and out of all the dog-friendly venues,” Jenkins said.

“It was a great way to build her confidence and socialize with other pets in a friendly environment.”

Hogan said many families were open to adopting new dogs, and there were several donations at the silent auction.

“Gainesville is a city of very hospitable people.”

Pledge 5 is always looking for volunteers to pledge five hours of community service to help out with a good cause.

If anyone is interested, contact Jason Bowman at Pledge 5. www.pledge5.org.

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