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A best friend awaits

Bear Creek Lake was teeming with people Sunday afternoon as an abundance of fun opportunities were available to families with excited children. Many played in the water, some relaxed in the shade, others enjoyed ice cream cones.

And under the nearby Lakeside Shelter, an offering few might have expected was on hand — dogs looking to be adopted by loving owners.

The event was called Bark in the Park, and it was led by Leigh McCrea, founder and board member of Friends of Cumberland County Animal Control.

To view more photos of the event, click here.

McCrea had some friends helping her with the event, including three of the canine variety — Miss B, a pitbull mix, Joe, a foxhound, and Priscilla, a Shar-Pei bully mix.

“Joe was a originally an owner surrender, so his family turned him over to Animal Control,” McCrea said. “Miss B was a stray, so, in the county without any identification, her family never came for her. And then Priscilla was also an owner surrender.”

Most of the dogs Animal Control gets are strays, McCrea noted.

Miss B ended up being adopted Monday, illustrating clearly the effectiveness of the event and McCrea’s organization.

She said the euthanasia rate for cats and dogs in the area was 54 percent in 2013. After she formed Friends of Cumberland County Animal Control on Jan. 27, 2014, that percentage dropped precipitously and has stayed low. She said the rate was 19 percent in 2014, nine percent in 2015 and less than five percent in 2016.

McCrea said last year was a little rough because a feral cat colony was discovered and Animal Control needed to euthanize several cats, but she estimated that the percentage still remained at a relatively low 15 percent.

In 2015, McCrea was nominated and selected as an Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen Hometown Hero in recognition of the work she has done.

Her organization and Cumberland County Animal Control are separate entities, but McCrea said, “I consider my organization as a liaison between the shelter and the community. I have facilitated adoptions, facilitated rescues …”

Originally her plan was far simpler.

“It was supposed to just be we were going to put pictures of the dogs in the shelter on Facebook — ‘Here, come get them,’” McCrea said, referring to the organization’s Facebook page, which has 5,600 likes. “And now, we have our nonprofit (status), and we do events like this and we fundraise. We fund spay and neuter.”

Sunday was the second time McCrea had held a Bark in the Park event at Bear Creek Lake State Park. She said Park Manager Joey Dayton helped make it possible.

“He had contacted us before Memorial Day, and we did Bark in the Park that Memorial Day weekend, and so he had contacted us to see if we wanted to do one again Labor Day weekend,” McCrea said. “So it gets us out into the community, and it gets the dogs out, helps us know more about them and see if they like water. Somebody gave Joe a hot dog, but I already knew he liked hot dogs.”

She indicated that she hopes Bark in the Park can be an annual event at Bear Creek Lake State Park.

“It’s close by, so I’m able to bring more dogs,” she said. “… These type events really help us to know the pets more. … And we’ve got local folks (here), we’ve got people from out of town, and it really brings exposure to our organization because we can tell people about what we’re doing, and it helps us get our mission out.”