The Dog Days of Summer are over -- Siriusly. But funky Brady Street has always barked to a different bone, and Sun., Sept. 28 will bring us the Dog Day of Autumn when the Second Annual Best Dog-Gone Brady Street Parade will fill the East Side neighborhood with earthly and spiritual activities for man and beast.
The parade, a benefit for the Wisconsin Humane Society, will include bagpipers, drummers, the Milwaukee Police Department's Mounted Horse Patrol along with a variety of other amusements, according to Annette V. French, the owner of Dragonfly, an eclectic Brady Street shop that features a dog-watering station outside its door.
"We will start at 11:30 a.m. with registration at the vacant lot at Arlington and Brady Streets," she said. A suggested $10 donation to the humane society will enter you and your dog, hopefully with one or both of you in costume.
At 12:30 the parade through the neighborhood will begin, and at 1 p.m. Father Tim Kitzke will bless the dogs at St. Hedwig's Church. At 1:15 p.m. the fun will move to Passeggio, where awards will be given, including one for the best-costumed dogs and people.
Other activities, such as bobbing for hot dogs, dog photographs and caricatures will continue the festival atmosphere. Artistically inclined canines will be encouraged to try their hand at paw paintings, while their earthier counterparts can participate in a "bone dig." McGruff, the crime-fighting dog, will be there to maintain order.
The Best Dog-Gone Brady Street Parade's premiere last year was the idea of Julilly Kohler, a neighborhood resident whose Old English Sheepdog, Percy, had died after a long life spent in the Brady Street neighborhood.
"I wanted a way for us to commemorate the old pets -- the "gone dogs" -- and to celebrate the living ones. I wanted to do something in memory of Percy and I thought I'd hold a New Orleans style funeral for him, with a New Orleans Jazz band, but the band was too expensive and would scare the dogs. So I thought it would be fun to have the dogs and people dressed up," Kohler said.
A date was set up, Rev. Kitzke agreed to bless the pets and people, the event was hastily promoted and funds were raised for the Wisconsin Humane Society.
Kohler printed a photograph of her late pet on a poster, along with his birth and death dates, mounted it on a pole and carried it through the parade, marching with dozens of costumed dogs and humans, including a particularly formidable witch, who turned out to be Teri Regano, the owner of the Roman Coin tavern on Brady and Astor streets. She won the prize for Best Costume.
Quite a R.O.M.P.
Expect an animal activist element at this year's event, says neighbor Mark Behar, who is one of a growing number of dog owners lobbying for an area in a public park where dogs could be permitted off-leash.
"Most other cities have a dedicated place for dogs to run," he said, "but there has never been strong support for people who have dogs in the city ... We know that we must pick up waste and that the dogs must be under control. Most people understand this ... A logical place in the Brady Street neighborhood for a dog park would be in the flats of the Milwaukee River, or a fenced area in a larger park."
He said the only dog parks in the area are difficult to access for many Brady Street residents who often lack private vehicles to transport their pets. "It is especially a problem on the East Side," he said.
An independent group called R.O.M.P. - "Residents for Off-Leash Milwaukee Parks"-- has created a web site --- www.romp4dogs.org.com -- and supporters are encouraged to participate in the Brady Street parade.
Brady Street however is always ready for the dogs. Watering stations like the one at Dragonfly are also available at Famous Cigars and at Engine House No. 5, which lacks only a Dalmatian, so if you've got one handy, bring it along for a doggoned good time.