01 October 2014

Celebrate Comrades-in-Arms, Pets at 'Day of the Dead'

A military- and pet-friendly celebration of La Dia de Los Muertos ("The Day of the Dead") will be hosted by Central Iowa non-profit Paws & Effect at Living History Farms, 11121 Hickman Road, Urbandale, Iowa, starting at 1 p.m. Sat., Oct. 18. Costumes are encouraged, as well as "shrines" commemorating the honored dead.

La Dia de Los Meurtos is a traditional holiday that originates in Mexico and other Latino countries, during which family and friends gather to celebrate their ancestors and other loved ones. It is usually observed close to Halloween.

"We share our lives with pets and people," says Nicole Shumate, executive director of Paws & Effect. "Paws & Effect wants to create an opportunity to join together as a community, remembering and cherishing all those whose lives have touched ours."

Since 2006, the non-profit has trained and placed service animals with military veterans, children with autism, and others diagnosed with medical needs. The organization also trains therapy animals and Pet Partners. Shumate notes that the event uniquely offers veterans an opportunity to celebrate fallen brothers and sisters in arms, as well as former Military Working Dog partners, and past service and companion animals. Think of it as a "Hail and Farewell" event, with those being celebrated no longer physically present.

A New Orleans-style memorial ceremony and jubilee procession will begin 1 p.m. at the Living History Farms' Church of the Land. Music will be provided by the Drake University Jazz Band.

The upbeat procession will culminate at the Living History Farms softball fields, where music will be provided by El Dorados. Participants can purchase food from Magnolia Kitchen and Grocery, and sample beer from Peace Tree Brewing.

Cost for the event is $25. Register on-line here.

In addition to Living History Farms and Paws & Effect, the event is co-sponsored by the Dan Sesker Memorial Poker Run and Iowa Chapter of the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of Iowa (EANGI).

Paws & Effect received a $2,000 donation from the Dan Sesker group, which annually raises funds through a Memorial Day weekend motorcycle ride and poker run originating in Ogden, Iowa. Sesker was killed in action April 6, 2006, while serving in Iraq. His family honors his memory by supporting community nonprofits whose work benefits military personnel, veterans, and families.

Paws & Effect also received $3,500 from the EANGI to help offset the costs associated with placing service dogs with veterans. These funds also support community events such as Dia de los Muertos, which provide an opportunity to celebrate the lives of comrades and family members who have served in uniform.

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