19 November 2021

PAWS Party is an un-fur-gettable community event for everyone

| Jeremy Jones
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People at PAWS Party at Haig Park in Braddon

PAWS Party is a monthly event in Haig Park, Braddon, that is held on the last Saturday of every month. Photo: Martin Ollman.

Love dogs, coffee, live music and a good time for free? Check out the PAWS Party on Saturday, 27 November, from 10 am to 12 pm at Haig Park in Braddon, in which a bunch of Canberrans will celebrate all things dogs.

The event has a fun focus on older people from the Pet Assistance and Wellbeing Service (PAWS).

Organisers are offering this traditional and safe place for people to meet each other via their four-legged friends.

The event is held at Haig Park Dog Agility Course on the last Saturday of every month. The course is designed to the standards of the Agility Dog Association of Australia and is located near the park’s entrance at Mort Street.

Wayne Kelly playing music on keyboard in park

Wayne Kelly will play live music at the PAWS Party on Saturday, 27 November. Photo: Martin Ollman.

Providing live music at this month’s PAWS Party is jazz pianist Wayne Kelly, who is the resident pianist at iconic cafe, bar and restaurant Tilley’s Devine Cafe Gallery in Lyneham. His repertoire includes dog puns on film themes, including ‘Citizen Canine’, ‘Bark to the Future’, ‘The Dog Father’, ‘Jurassic Bark’, and ‘Breakfast at Sniff-anys’.

While everyone can get together to enjoy live music and a community ‘Bark-B-Q’, the event is also an opportunity for different community members to connect.

“The older dog owners who come along – some of who are PAWS clients and may be living alone or isolated – especially appreciate coming to this special social gathering where they can have lovely brewed coffee and baked goodies, share their stories and enjoy meeting other dog owners,” says long-standing PAWS volunteer Di Johnston.

“For the pooches, there are many activities and, of course, lots of doggy treats.”

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PAWS Party events enable Northside Community Service to connect older Canberrans with their community. The organisation offers transport for PAWS participants, who are mostly aged above 65, so they can take part in the event.

“PAWS Parties have helped bring together people from all different backgrounds and walks of life,” says Clinton Beale, development coordinator for Northside Community Service.

“We see conversations between people from every background.

Sign for older pet owners in park

Northside Community Service offers transport for PAWS participants, who are mostly aged above 65, to attend PAWS Parties. Photo: Martin Ollman.

“Events such as PAWS Parties provide valuable opportunities for connection and inclusion that can be extremely beneficial to mental and physical health, while reinforcing the values and strengths that older adults bring to our society and community as a whole.”

For Clinton, older Canberrans’ participation is his highlight of the PAWS Parties.

“It is lovely to see the friendships that attendees have struck up with each other and the broader community,” he says.

“Seeing those intergenerational connections warms my heart.

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“The joy that older adults experience sharing their stories and life with other community members is not celebrated as much as it should be. It’s all about bridging gaps and making connections.

“Older adults are a valuable and important part of our society. We should celebrate their wisdom, knowledge and stories, and ensure they’re involved in the community so those strengths are shared and understood by others.

“By helping our oldies participate in community events, we strengthen our community and reduce the risk of loneliness.

“Dogs spark joy and there are great benefits to everyone’s mental and physical health.”

Dogs and their owners at a PAWS Party at Haig Park

The PAWS Party at Haig Park is a chance for people and dogs to connect. Photo: Martin Ollman.

Clinton’s advice to PAWS partygoers is to “pop down and have a yarn with someone you normally wouldn’t meet”.

“Ask them about their pet and try to learn a thing or two about them and their life – you might be surprised at what you learn and the joy you’ll bring to their day,” he says.

“It really is a microcosm of community in one beautiful location. It’s a great way to celebrate diversity, inclusion, good music, good food, and of course, our pets.”

Head along to the PAWS Party on Saturday, 27 November, at 10 am at the Haig Park Dog Agility Course.

PAWS Party is a collaboration between City Renewal Authority, the University of Canberra’s Faculty of Arts and Design, Pet Assisted Wellbeing Service, and Northside Community Service.

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