On April 30th, Hornblower Cruises & Events will host it’s 16th annual “Pet Day on the Bay” to benefit the Helen Woodward Animal Center (HWAC), a local nonprofit that provides care and comfort to orphaned and injured animals. On Pet Day each year, dogs are welcomed aboard to enjoy a fun-filled harbor cruise with their owners. The event is also annually sponsored by Hornblower Cruises & Events, the Port of San Diego and Petco.

“The whole point of this event was to gather towels and blankets and give back to our area animal shelters,” said Rebecca Milkey, Director of Marketing for Hornblower Cruises & Events in Southern California. She continues, “Over the last 15 years, thousands of people and dogs have cruised on Hornblower’s popular narrated Pet Day Cruise. We gathered tens of thousands of towels and blankets to donate to HWAC and fill their storage areas with towels for baths and blankets to keep pets warm in their kennels.”

Rebecca reflected on some interesting memories on the Pet Day cruise over the years, “Like many first year events, the first Pet Day on the Bay was in May 2000 and started out as a free event, part of The Big Bay Days with the Port of San Diego. Not only could dogs cruise free, but people cruised free too. After a few years and crowds too large to manage, we began to charge for tickets. In the first years of the event, Frosty Paws, makers of cool treats for dogs, was a sponsor and brought a freezer full of dog ice cream. All the dogs had a sample and I still had so much left over I was able to drive the leftovers to the San Diego Humane Society over on Gaines Street. It was a warm day and the volunteers said that every dog would get a treat that day.”

Rebecca continues, “The most interesting thing I recall seeing was that a domesticated wolf was brought on board two years in a row. Yes, he was beautiful and friendly and behaved wonderfully with the other dogs on his one-hour cruise. We do watch the dogs while in line to see how they “get along” and if they’ll be okay on the boat. One dog in particular seemed pretty agitated in line so I asked it’s owner, what’s up with your dog? She said, nothing is wrong with my dog, he just hates little dogs! That dog could not go for a ride with us that day.”

The event has been in May every year, however, last year Hornblower’s Pet Day on the Bay conflicted with the canon battles at the Maritime Museum of San Diego. The dogs DID NOT like that!

Besides having “doggy bags available” for moms and dads to take away healthy treat samples, we always set up a “poop deck” area with turf or green indoor/outdoor carpet up on the outdoor deck each event. The dogs seem to know the color green means “free to pee” and we dispose of the whole thing after the dog cruises.

Each year Chopper the Biker Dog attends Pet Day on the Bay as the event’s “Ambassa-dog”. He is a cute little Boston terrier owned by Mark Schaffer. Mark pulls up on his Harley with Chopper the biker dog in full motorcycle gear with his own little remote control bike. Chopper is a huge hit and patiently poses with everyone.

Rebecca says,“ Chopper does a lot of good in the San Diego community and we’re happy to have him and Mark here each year to support the event and pet adoptions.” Chopper’s job is to bring smiles, joy, love and happiness to all. He makes a difference in life, one “paw” at a time.

Every year Darris Cooper, Dog Trainer and Animal Behaviorist from Petco rides all the cruises and gives great advice. Petco brings trucks full of dog samples, treat and toys that our guests take away. Meet Darris Cooper! Darris also offers a dog trick contest on the Bow Wow Brunch Cruise!

“I love helping out orphaned animals. I don’t believe in buying pets from breeders with all the animals in the shelters around Southern California. I have four rescues myself. I was a foster mom for momma cats and kittens, but after two litters I now have two cats and I am considered a double foster failure,’ a title which I’m kind of proud of; I’ll keep helping out in other ways”, Rebecca confessed.

Next event: Bow Wow Brunch cruise is every October. This is a special Sunday champagne brunch with a dog buffet, free flowing champagne and water bowls. Since it’s in October, we have an annual dog costume contest with three big prizes. We have very unique costumes and creative pet owners that participate. It’s so fun to see the dogs having brunch with their owners. We see the same attendees year after year. People enjoy the cruises because they can do something fun on the water with their best friend. Once a year is all it’s offered.

“I have great respect for Hornblower for allowing me to create these pet events,” Rebecca said. “Many boat companies will not allow dogs other than service dogs on board their yachts. Hornblower San Diego is pet friendly like it’s port city San Diego. “San Diego epitomizes the relaxed and friendly spirit that defines the best of the Southern California lifestyle.”

Pet Day Tickets: Cost is $24 for adults, $12 for children ages 4 to 12 and $22 for seniors and the military. Children three and under are free. Each adult passenger is invited to board with one dog. Canines must be kept on a leash throughout the cruise. To make reservations, visit http://hbdev.hornblower.com/port/overview/sd+petdayonbay

Reservations are now being accepted for April 30th Pet Day Cruises: Three one-hour cruises, departing at 9:30 a.m., 11:15 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. from the Hornblower ticket booth at 1800 N. Harbor Drive. Boarding begins 30 minutes prior to departure.

Rebecca Milkey has been with Hornblower Cruises & Events for over 20 years, and is the Director of Marketing for San Diego, Orange County and Los Angeles County.

The Helen Woodward Animal Center believes that animals help people and people help animals through trust, unconditional love, and respect. Sharing this philosophy with others, the Center inspires and teaches, locally and globally, the importance of the animal-human bond. To learn about the Helen Woodward Animal Center and it’s animal adoptions, boarding services and programs, visit www.animalcenter.org. In addition to the proceeds from ticket sales, passengers are asked to bring sorely needed blankets and towels to further assist HWAC’s animals in need.

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