Parade of pups: Big Red Barking band back for third year

Lauren Lorance

Lily loves meeting new people. Like any 8-year-old, she enjoys running around outside and playing with her friends.

That’s why the rescued golden retriever has organized the Big Red Barking Band, her owner Peter Hamburger, a math professor at WKU, said. The group of dogs, decked in WKU garb, will march in the Homecoming parade for the third year in a row.

Hamburger said Lily’s definitely the brains behind developing the group.

“She’s the smart one in the family,” he said. “I just do what she says.”

Hamburger said he hopes to gain more parade walkers and support as, for the first time, Lily will be joined by a local dog celebrity.

“This year, I will have support from NBC-40, because Radar the weather dog, he’s coming,” Hamburger said. “Lily and Radar are good friends.”

Lily, who Hamburger took in four years ago, after his daughter rescued the dog in California, is always excited to walk in the parade. Hamburger said he decided to help Lily spread the word because of his love for the furry four-legged animals.

“I love the parade, and Homecoming is a big event,” Hamburger said. “I love my dog and every dog. I’m a dog person, so I wanted that to be part of the parade.”

For the past two years, there have been between 40 and 50 dogs that walk with their owners, but this year, Hamburger wants to exceed that number.

“I am hoping that this year, it will be more, especially if the TV will announce a couple of times,” he said.

Any dog who is well-behaved, able to walk and not anxious or aggressive is welcome to participate, Hamburger said.

Maureen Wilk, office associate in Journalism and Broadcasting, said she will bring her shih tzus, Fluffy and Muffy, if weather permits. But instead of walking with the rest of the Barking Band, the shih tzus will get the star treatment.

“They like to be pulled in a cart,” Wilk said. “They like to look down at other little smaller dogs because they’re in the cart and they’re not walking.”

Fluffy and Muffy already have their outfits lined up.

“They’ve got some WKU red sweatshirts to wear and I’ve purchased some bows to put in because they have the shih tzus’ bow on top of their head,” Wilk said. “So they would definitely fit the role.”

Teresa Jackson, administrative assistant in Academic Affairs, is glad her dogs will be part of the Barking Band for the second year. Jackson, her husband and their son will be escorting their lab mixes, Maggie Rose and Daisy Belle.

“It just was a fun outing to get them out of the house and around friends that they could make and have a good time,” Jackson said. “We enjoy walking, and we are big Western fans, so [we] just thought it would be a good mix and a fun family thing for us to do on a Friday night.”

Like Lily, Maggie and Daisy are thrilled to be walking in the parade, Jackson said.

“They had a ball,” Jackson said, “and we enjoyed being down on the square with everyone when it was over, and just enjoying each other’s company with their puppies.”

It’s always a good time, Hamburger said, when spectators hear the pitter-patter of paws as the Big Red Barking Band trots along the parade route.

“People on the street, especially babies, toddlers, children, love us; run and pet the dogs, even adults,” Hamburger said. “We had a great time and quite a big success with the people. People really liked it. The owners and the dogs really, really have a great time.”