The dog Easter egg hunt in Larson Park is an annual tradition for Alex Yang, Jena Chou and their two dogs, Jake and Pochi.
First, they adopted Pochi — a small, healthy, golden white dog. Three years later they found Jake sitting in a shelter with his left eye sewn shut. He was thrown out of a car when he was a puppy. Yang knew immediately they had to make him part of their family.
“Nobody wanted him until we found him, and we adopted him on Jan. 2, 2012,” Yang said.
But Jake’s missing eye did not slow him down during the Easter egg hunt.
Twelve hundred Easter eggs were hidden throughout Larson Park on Saturday, April 12. Instead of candy, however, the eggs were filled with dog treats. About 70 dogs attended the dog Easter egg hunt, hosted by the Webster Groves Recreation Complex.
After the hunt was over, the pile of eggs collected by both Jake and Pochi piled half a foot high on the table.
Dogs of all sizes came to celebrate Easter, from giant 200 lbs. mastiffs to tiny tutu-wearing poodles. The dogs had their picture taken with Peter Cottontail and individual portraits drawn by a caricature artist.
This was the second year Gwen Moss, recreation leader at the Webster Groves Recreation Complex, worked with the event.
“I just love seeing the dogs. There’s so many different varieties; that’s why I do it,” Moss said.
Webster University alumna Linda Hayes attended the hunt with her small grey and black Pekinese, Perry. But, Perry almost did not make it to this year’s Easter egg hunt.
Hayes returned from a trip to find Perry sick. The vet told her Perry had a fungus on his brain stem half the size of his actual brain.
“We were debating putting him down. He couldn’t even stand up or raise his head,” Hayes said.
Hayes said the Veterinary Specialty Services performed what she called a miracle, reducing the fungus down to the size of a pea.
Recreation Manager and dog lover Miki Mckee-Koelsch described Webster Groves as a dog-friendly community. Mckee-Koelsch said dog events are well attended in the community.
Mckee-Koelsch owns seven shih tzus: Peanut, Cheyenne, Snicker-doodle, Sassy-pants, Raspberry, Bizzer and Dinky-Doosy — each, she said, have distinct personalities.
“I do love Easter. Any holiday that I get to spend time with my dogs is a good holiday,” Mckee-Koelsch said.
Kelly Thuiet has attended all six dog Easter egg hunts. She said the hunt gives her something to do around Easter time. This year she brought Artie, a golden retriever-German sheperd-malamute mutt.
“It gets them out. It’s good for them and me,” Thuiet said.
The Easter egg hunt is one of two dog events that Webster Groves Recreation Complex hosts. The other is the “Cool Canines” dog pool party, which takes place the day after Labor Day. Mckee-Koelsch said 150 to 200 dogs attend the pool party, and that these types of dog events offer dogs the socialization they need.
The Easter egg hunt cost $5 to pre-register and $10 on event day. The money went toward Webster Groves Parks and Recreation Department and toward prizes so that every dog walked away with something.
The hunt was supported by the Webster Groves Animal Hospital, which has been a major supporter of the event since its conception. Canine Center, Watering Bowl, No Leash Needed, and Shakers Dog Wash and Grooming donated prizes, as well as Yorkshire Great Clips and Texas Roadhouse.
“Everybody walked away with something, even the humans,” Mckee-Koelsch said.
For Yang, Chou and their dogs, Jake and Pochi, the hunt was not about the prizes.
“It makes us happy, and it makes them happy,” Chou said.