Nose around the origins of the Goldens on the Green Flash Mob and Social, a fundraiser for the Humane Society of Greater Nashua, and you’ll quickly catch the scent of humor.
Event founder Bill Swift’s mischievous personality comes out in quips, a rapid-fire game of fetch that begins the moment he starts tossing out stories about the first play date he organized for golden retrievers and their people.
The feel-good event debuted in 2019 on the Amherst Village Green, drawing laughs both at the doggie “kissing booth,” where a dab of peanut butter on a human’s cheek ensured a picture-perfect nuzzle, and at the tongue-in-cheek “protest” area for those whose fur was ruffled by the breed-specific nature of the outing.
But the most tail wagging came from the choice of grand marshal. Crackers, a popular gander who was something of a mascot in town, won a town election by a landslide to lead the parade. Crackers was a big hit with children who waved flags and marched next to his caged float, followed by two dozen fluffy golden retriever dogs and pups.
Sadly, Crackers, sometime after his celebrated public appearance, disappeared.
“People are still very upset about that. He was quite the character,” Swift said. “He either ran away with his girlfriend or he flew south with his buddies.”
2020 eventFor the 2020 event, set to begin at 1 p.m. Sunday on the Amherst green, Swift hopes to find a stand-in to herald the start of the grand parade. Horses, goats, chickens and preferably loud roosters who aren’t afraid to play up to the crowd are being considered for the job.
This year’s Goldens on the Green event got the paws up from town officials in late September, said Dean Shankle Jr., Amherst’s town administrator. Swift and the Humane Society are requiring people to wear face masks, maintain 6 feet of social distancing, keep dogs on leashes and monitor interactions between their animals. Hand sanitizer will be available on site.
Participants also have the option of smooching their own pets, as opposed to cuddling up to service canines, for pictures at the kissing booth.
“Who wouldn’t want to spend the day in a sea of golden retrievers,” said Katie Boyden, director of communication engagement at the humane society.
Swift came up with the idea of such a gathering when he got his first golden retriever last year. He’d always wanted to get a dog when he retired, but when he finally brought Nellie home, he wondered how he could meet and chat with other golden retriever owners about the ins and outs of dog rearing.
A few months later, Swift heard news reports of more than 100 goldens rescued from a home in Bradford, about half of them winding up at the Humane Society for Greater Nashua. Because some had been pregnant, there were soon puppies to place as well. That spurred Swift to craft a new kind of fundraiser, one that would bring goldens and their humans together and help raise funds for the rescue organization.
Overall, the response to Goldens on the Green has been great. But a few people have barked out complaints.
“A lady got in a keyboard war with me because she wanted to bring her black lab and felt she was being discriminated against,” Swift said with a chuckle.
His response was to create another funny photo opp. He set up a designated protest zone behind yellow crime scene-type tape for the woman, but much to his chagrin, she and her dog didn’t show.
In reality, Swift is a dog lover who doesn’t discriminate based on length or color of a dog’s coat. When another dog owner called about the possibility of bringing an English yellow lab to last year’s event, Swift told him all he had to do was sign the dog in as a “short-haired golden.”
For her part, Boyden doesn’t have a dog, but she does have a cat “who thinks she’s a dog.”
That fits in well with Swift’s wry sense of keeping the peace.
“She likes to walk on a leash, and I have a backpack that she can sit in. Bill would probably just create a sign: ‘Small feline golden.’ He would find a way to make it work,” Boyden said. “(He) is such a funny guy.”
Swift said one dog owner last year gave him an unexpected laugh.
“We had done the parade and when I looked over, 30 feet back lingering in the parade comes one more person. I said, ‘Wait …” There was this guy with a black pit bull that he had sprayed with gold stripes. The pit bull’s neck sign said ‘Wanna-be golden.’ The things that people do … Everyone went home with a feel-good feeling.”
The Goldens on the Green’s kissing booth opens at 1 p.m. The pool diving championship — retrieval of a dock-diving baton from a kiddie pool — is at 1:30 p.m., followed by an awards ceremony for youngest, oldest and best service dogs at 2:15 p.m. The parade of goldens steps off at 2:30 p.m.
A $10 donation per golden is suggested.
Owning a golden is not a requirement to watch the event. For updates, go to the Facebook page Goldens on the Green 2020.