Joe the pup spreads Christmas cheer
LOOK out Santa's Little Helper, there's a new dog in town.
Dressed up in his Christmas best, Joe the pup has again hit the streets to spread some festive cheer, while reminding those he meets of an important issue.
Owner Barry Fitzgerald decided four Christmases ago that Joe was the perfect way to remind people of a matter that is close to his heart.
"We take Joe around to all of the country markets, and of course people just love him and come up for a pat,” Mr Fitzgerald said.
"Then my wife Vera and I chat to them about saving dogs from the pound, so that abandoned dogs can have half a chance to have a life.
"There are so many dogs that are neglected - and the pound is so overcrowded - it's terrible. There are so many great dogs ready and waiting to find a new home.”
Leading up to Christmas, Mr Fitzgerald said the couple regularly took Joe to visit the elderly in nursing homes around the region.
"He really cheers them up instantly, they just light up when they see him,” Mr Fitzgerald said.
"In the past we have also set up the dog jumping at a nursing home for them too, to give them a bit of entertainment.
"And kids really love him - it's a really nice feeling to go around and bring some people joy - especially during this time of the year.”
The teddy bear Joe wears was bought from a Salvation Army store for a few dollars and is strapped to his back with a harness.
"He doesn't mind having the teddy bear on him... he just loves it,” Mr Fitzgerald said.
"And it's unusual to see dogs dressed up.”
Joe is also the Fitzgeralds' mascot for their Fitzy's Dog Jumping Competition, which they have hosted at local shows around the district for the past three years.
"Like taking Joe around the markets, the dog jumping is another thing we do for nothing,” Mr Fitzgerald said.
"We do it voluntarily and go out to get people inspired to get into dog high jump in the shows.”