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Festival to celebrate pets

On Saturday, Sept. 18, it's all about the animals at the Great American Pet Festival in Clifton Park. The celebration, in its third year, invites pets and their owners to gather at the Shenendehowa Methodist Church grounds and enjoy some food, fun and furry competition.

The day features talks by a veterinarian, groomer and trainer, a Blessing of the Pets and a Grand Walk of Pets where dogs don their finest duds to vie for prizes and trophies. This year's event has added an additional guest, Animal Control Officer Bill Lehman, who will answer questions and share some of his most humorous, and heartbreaking, stories.

Lehman has been doing animal control work for 14 years, 10 of which have been in Clifton Park. His job is to enforce the town's ordinances, issue tickets and do preliminary investigations into cruelty.

I've been asked for recommendations in a case where a dogs is left in the car when it's really hot; how it should be handled. We take complaints a lot, for a dog barking all night or day, dogs running free in a certain neighborhood and occasionally a dog attack, said Lehman.

He said the job is fulfilling but comes with a lot of pain and sadness, which is amplified because he's a dog lover and something he said he never gets used to.

"I love the job, it's very self gratifying, but there are some horrible, sad parts of it, like having to bring a dog home to be IDed by the owner or taking it in to be put down because it was hit by train or car," said Lehman. "I'll hold the dog's head and stare it right in the face and keep it comfortable and calm, but it brings tears to my eyes. That's the hardest part of my job because I love dogs; I like them more than I like some people."

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