McCORDSVILLE – Summer Harper has a soft spot for dogs. She has four of her own: a pit bull mix, American Eskimo mix, Scottish-terrier dachshund, a Chihuahua mix and – she claims – room for more.

“Dogs bring something to your life,” Harper said. “You get home from a bad day, and your dog is excited to see you, and instantly, your bad day is gone.”

This preference for four-legged companions inspired the 32-year-old McCordsville native — a recent events management graduate from Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis — to create her own fundraising enterprise to help support pet rescue organizations.

Harper’s Best of Mutts bills itself as “a dog show for the rest of us” – for dogs that would never make it in to the prestigious Westminster dog show. Dogs, dog owners and dog lovers are invited to this free event held at McCordsville Town Hall Park, 6280 W. County Road 200N, from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday.

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Attendees and their dogs can participate in mutt show categories including Best of Puppy, Best of Adult, Waggiest Tail, Best-Dressed, Most Obedient and Best Dog-Shaming Sign. Registration for the competition is $15 with the winner in each category – determined by audience response and applause – advancing to the final round: Best of Mutts. Winners receive bone-shaped trophies, pet treats and toys.

Other activities include a pet photo booth ($5) and a dog wash ($10).

Managing the event requires a lot of volunteer manpower, but finding backers for the pungent dog wash can be problematic, Harper said.

“My adult volunteers say, ‘I’ll do anything you want except the dog wash,’” Harper said, but a couple of younger volunteers are more than happy to get their hands dirty — and wet. Sisters Ginny and Maddie Mathis, age 15 and 11, respectively, manage the dog wash with a hose, shampoo and a lot of patience.

The girls got the gig because their mother works with Harper.

“Summer asked me and my sister, and we were glad to help,” Ginny said. “I like dogs, so it’s nice to get to hang out with them.”

Now in its third year, Best of Mutts has grown in attendance and funds raised. The first year, the event brought in around $1,000, which was distributed among three animal rescue facilities; the second year, two animal shelters shared more than $2,400; this year, Harper hopes to break the $3,000 mark. All funds from the 2017 Harper’s Best of Mutts benefit Hancock County’s Partners for Animal Welfare Society (P.A.W.S.).

As the beneficiary of the event, P.A.W.S. will be on the grounds offering pet adoptions as well as a new activity for the four-legged athletes: a fenced-in Doggie Dash agility course that dogs can participate in for a dollar.

Another inaugural P.A.W.S.–inspired event is the wet t-shirt contest. President and director of P.A.W.S. Nancy Rubino describes the race: the owners and their dogs on a leash race down toward three buckets marked by size as small, medium and large. In addition to t-shirts, the buckets are also full of water. The dog owners must wrestle their dogs into the sopping wet t-shirts and race back to the finish line.

Also contributing to the cause is a silent auction that will be held throughout the event. Items including restaurant and hair salon gift cards, doggie toy packages, tickets to an Indians game and a football signed by all of the Indianapolis Colts players are up for grabs.

Harper hopes the date change from early fall to spring helps to increase attendance.

Harper also has high hopes for good weather, but just in case, Best of Mutts sponsor Scarlet Lane Brewing Co. will come to the rescue, inviting the event inside at the brewery.

Dogs are allowed in because the establishment doesn’t serve food, but it does offer dog treats and water bowls.

“We have lots of regulars who are dogs who come in,” tap house manager Lea Newlin.

Should bad weather move the event, the new locale will toss in what Newlin calls “an ale salute” — a donation of 20 percent of all sales to Harper’s cause.

If you go

Harper’s Best of Mutts takes place from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. Saturday at McCordsville Town Hall Park, 6280 W. County Road 200N. All dogs and their owners are welcome. Admission is free; participation in the dog show is $15; other activities range from $1 to $10. Visit Harper’s Best of Mutts Show on Facebook for more information.

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Christine Schaefer is arts editor and editorial assistant at the Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3222 or