Dogs have their day at winery

See Ya Later Ranch hosts Dog Days of Summer on Saturday

The first signs of fall can stay away — the dogs want one last day to play.

See Ya Later Ranch in Okanagan Falls is holding its ninth-annual Dog Days of Summer event on Saturday, where dogs and their two-legged friends can celebrate the final days of warm weather with animal-friendly activities for a good cause.

“It’s hectic, but a lot of fun,” Tamsin Finnigan, the ranch’s manager, said Wednesday.

Participants can check out dog-related vendors including biscuit bakers, groomers and more, as well as have a professional photo taken of their furry family member.

The highlight of the afternoon is the doggie fashion show, set to kick off around 2:30 and will feature celebrity judges evaluating everyone’s get-ups.

“Usually we have to cut it off at about 40 dogs,” Finnigan said, adding that it isn’t just pets in costume. “People dress themselves up, too.”

The event serves as not only a fundraiser for the B.C. SPCA, but an homage to the ranch’s beginnings.

Finnigan said the ranch had originally been called Hawthorne Mountain Vineyards, and they hosted a barbecue each year during which residents used to recall stories about the eccentric owner who used to occupy the lands.

The vineyard had been an working ranch in the 1900s with Hawthorne brothers Sam and George working the land. The property was sold to Maj. Hugh Fraser, a former prisoner of war during the first European conflict who came to enjoy the freedom of open skies in the Okanagan Valley. He lived there for 45 years, naming it the See Ya Later Ranch.

His reputation in town became one of eccentricity, stemming from part myth and part reality. He held parties and invited townsfolk to join him and his brood of animals on the ranch.

Fraser was an avid dog lover, fond of Scottish collies, and all his four-legged friends were given the run of the ranch. They were laid to rest in a dog cemetery on site, which features the oldest headstone dated dedicated to “Jimmy My Pal” from 1917 to 1921. There are 12 headstones in total. He stood as president of the B.C. SPCA for five years.

Fraser planted a few wine grapes at the ranch, pioneering viticulture on site. In honour of the previous owner’s viticulture endeavours, Hawthorne decided to produce a limited offering devoted to Fraser and See Ya Later. “They found they were wildly popular,” Finnigan said.

See Ya Later Ranch wine series now features a white dog with angel wings in celebration of man’s best friend, the individualist lifestyle of Fraser and his pioneering spirit that surrounds the winery site.

While there are less dogs on site now, the 101-acre vineyard is primarily home to Gewürztraminer vines as well as Chardonnay, Ehrenfelser, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir.

In keeping with the animal-loving spirit of the previous owner, Finnigan said the winery wanted to support the plight of animals through the B.C. SPCA.

Over the years, Dog Days of Summer raised between $3,000 and $7,000 for the animal cruelty and adoption organization’s Penticton branch.

Finnigan said $1 of each bottle purchased at liquor stores this month will go to the SPCA, as will the net proceeds of food sales Saturday.

Dog Days of Summer runs from noon to 4 p.m. at See Ya Later Ranch, 2575 Green Lake Rd., just five kilometres from Highway 97. Admission is by donation. For information, visit www.sylranch.com/events/default.asp or check them out on Facebook.