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Pets on parade

Annual expo delights animal lovers

Matt Kish of Tarentum holds Alvie, a Green Wing Macaw parrot, at the Central PA Pet Expo on Sunday at the Blair County Convention Center. Mirror photo by Kay Stephens

At the Central PA Pet Expo, visitors do a lot more than pet animals.

“Look at the snake X-ray,” said Laura Conrad, pointing to a nearby table with the image of a semi-curled reptile displayed on a screen. “How often do you get see that?”

“That parrot in the middle is 55 years old,” said Kenny Sprouse of Tarentum, pointing to one of about a dozen parrots of all sizes and colors.

“I’m all about educating people,” Sprouse said. “I tell them if you’re going to get a bird, do your homework first … These aren’t just cats and dogs with feathers.”

About 1,200 people turned out for Sunday’s ninth annual Central PA Pet Expo at the Blair County Convention Center, said Altoona Mirror Marketing Manager Amy Hanna Eckenrode, who organized the event.

“I really love this show,” said Teri Thorsteinson of Virginia, personal assistant to Coco the Couture Cat, a well-traveled Cornish Rex feline with a wardrobe of glittery outfits and appropriate accessories.

“The super-size pet expos can be unruly and cramped,” she said. “Here, I have a nice amount of space, the aisles are wide and people can stop and talk to me and see Coco.”

And when Coco isn’t sitting inside her pink Cadillac pet stroller, Thorsteinson can change the fashionable feline’s outfit without worry of an aggressive dog.

While members of the Altoona Area Kennel Association bring all breeds of dogs to the pet expo, those dogs are often busy demonstrating their abilities and obedience. But the owners also give them a chance to parade around the expo and draw attention.

“My favorite part of the show is probably all the feedback my dogs get,” J.R. Hagen of the Ebensburg area said while keeping a strong hold on the leash of his waist-high 2-year-old Great Dane, Cicero, whose paws were larger than a fist.

“We belong to the kennel association and they said they didn’t have any Great Danes for the show and asked if we would bring ours.”

“He’s just gorgeous,” said Shauna Witherow of Altoona who petted Cicero’s head, prompting the dog to stand close to her for more affection. “My favorite part of this show is getting to see all the animals.”

Hagen’s wife, Tammy, had control of a smaller Great Dane, Venus, standing almost hip high.

“Venus is only 10 months old,” Hagen said. “Just a puppy.”

The show also provides an opportunity for people to meet pets available for adoption and pets that have been adopted.

Jennifer Ocker of Tipton brought “Runo” to the show and dressed him in a vest with “Adopt Me” on the side. He was one of two dogs and three cats from the Central Pennsylvania Humane Society in search of pet parents and volunteers.

Shane Snyder of Charleston, W.Va., was at the show with Sheeba, a German Shepherd he agreed to care for in July 2017 when the dog was skin and bones at 35 pounds.

“A Reason to Believe Animal Rescue” of Lenore, W.Va., turned to Snyder for the dog’s care and he said he couldn’t say no.

“Nobody thought she was going live more than three months,” Snyder said.

Fifteen months later, the dog still has some health issues. But Sheeba now weighs 65 pounds.

“She goes hiking with me and likes car rides,” Snyder said, picking up a copy of Central PA Pets magazine showing Sheeba in rubber raft at the shore.

She likes coming to the pet show, too, Snyder said.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.

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