Dogs hunt for easter eggs in Windsor

On Friday, Malden Park hosted their annual Easter egg hunt for dogs in support of National Service Dogs. The organization provides certified service animals to people living with autism and post traumatic stress disorder.

The "social event of the year for dogs" raises money for National Service Dogs

A dog and the Easter Bunny interact at Windsor's Easter Egg Hunt for Dogs on Good Friday. (Rob Heydari/CBC)

Good Friday went to the dogs in Windsor, in a manner of speaking. On Friday, Malden Park hosted the annual easter egg hunt for dogs in support of National Service Dogs.

The organization provides certified service animals to people living with autism and post-traumatic stress disorder. They've held an Easter egg hunt each spring for at least a decade in Windsor.

Dozens of canines searched through the park for thousands of Easter eggs, each stuffed with a dog treat for the animal and a sticker for their human companions. The stickers could be collected for prizes such as dog toys or prize packs from sponsors.

"It's the social event of the year for the dogs," said Erica McKenzie while holding her 10-year-old dog, Dora, who has hunted for eggs every year since she was a puppy.

Erica McKenzie and her dog, Dora, have come to the Easter Egg Hunt for Dogs for the past ten years. (Rob Heydari/CBC)

Supporting service animals was a primary reason for McKenzie to attend. Her dog, Dora, had previously worked as a service animal for a different organization. "I really believe in the work the service dogs do, especially for children with autism," she added.

'A friend he can count on'

Organizer Betsy D'Annunzio got involved in part because her son Gabriel has a service dog.

"He is a friend that [Gabriel] can count on without having to use words or social cues," said D'Annunzio who is hopeful the event will provide substantial funding for NSD. "I'm hoping for at least three or four thousand dollars from Windsor."

Betsy D'Annunzio helped coordinate the canine Easter egg hunt. Her son, Gabriel, has a service dog from NSD. (Rob Heydari/CBC)

Events were held on Good Friday across Ontario in Guelph, Oakville, Kitchener, St. Catharines and London. An event was also held in Calgary. Entrance fees were set at $25 per participating dog, but human participants could earn extra chances to win prizes through additional fundraising.

"I think... [NSD] actually broke their record and got $55,000 [total] which is awesome," said D'Annunzio. 

Indy is a service dog for Gabriel D'Annunzio, who has autism. (Rob Heydari/CBC)

National Service Dogs said they do not receive direct government funding. According to NSD, the wait time for someone with autism to receive a service dog from them is two to three years from the time of application.