Hewitt City Council member Wilbert Wachtendorf took off his elected official hat Saturday for a moment to take on the role of a poet.
The former mayor was so moved by the story of a lost dog in his city that he felt stirred at the fifth annual Hewitt Dog Days festival to share a poem he had written.
Wachtendorf wrote “Ode to Gus” after the Hewitt Police Department and local residents spent 51 days in a citywide dog hunt looking for Gus, who had run away from his home. He was found in time to soak up his newfound celebrity at the Dog Days event.
“There once was a dog named Gus, who caused his owners such a fuss,” Wachtendorf started the poem. “You see Gus was a basset hound, who just didn’t want to stick around. He was rescued so he could live in Hewitt, but ol’ Gus was determined he couldn’t do it.”
Wachtendorf continued his poem and told the crowd he put the verses together as the incident unfolded across the city.
“I was hoping after I wrote this thing I could get it sent to Nashville and have one of them country western singers write a little song about it,” he said. “So far I haven’t been able to contact anyone. They won’t accept my calls. They don’t know who I am.”
More than 2,000 people, many with at least one dog in tow, packed Hewitt Park for the event, visiting local vendors, food trucks, and feeding and taking pictures with the more than 70 animals in the petting zoo. The free event was sponsored by the Hewitt Public Library.
Library Director Waynette Ditto, who spent much of the day helping direct parking, said the turnout was excellent. In previous years, the event has been held in September, and organizers hoped pushing it back a few weeks would provide cooler weather.
“Us moving it, we didn’t really know what the turnout would be,” Ditto said. “Apparently it’s been a big hit. We brought in some children’s activities with Chicken Circus Dog and the petting zoo, and that has brought a different crowd to Dog Days than we’ve had in the past. I’m seeing families with younger kids and dogs.”
In a baby blue and white suit, Circus Chicken Dog performer Darren Peterson occasionally played the accordion while performing his one-man, five-dog, one-parrot act.