Bouquets of purple and white balloons swayed back and forth in the summer breeze coming off rush-hour Temple Street. Black-cloth-covered banquet tables displayed the latest in dogging wares and services, including “Furtographs” Pet Portraits, South Park Doggie Day Care, Spa and Supplies, Bark Avenue Foundation, Pet La La Land and Handle With Care Dog Training Classes. There was even a distinguished-looking chief in a white jacket with buttons across the front, who looked like he might have been a survivor from “Hell’s Kitchen,” serving up mini-meals of freshly threaded carrots, plump blueberries and pieces of marinated chicken to man’s best friends. Classical piano music wafted from outdoor speakers matched the tony event’s mellow mood as custodians/guardians — the word “owner” was never uttered — walked their Black Russian Terriers, Chihuahuas, Border Collies, Pit-bull, Irish Setters and Doberman Punchers around the 2 1/2-acre plaza grounds. The only offering for humans was an eating and drinking area featuring a full bar and, of course, Dodger Dogs.Walking-around festivalMsgr. Kevin Kostelnik — the cathedral’s pastor who came up with the idea for the bowwow event with Hal Bastian of the Downtown Center Business Improvement District four years ago — was busy walking around with an ample wicker basket handing out silver medals. On one side was the image of St. Francis of Assisi, the beloved patron of animals, with his colleague St. Anthony of Padua on the flip side. An attached folded card had a brief bio of both, along with a “Blessing for My Dog.” On the back was a mini-drawing of Msgr. Kostelnik’s dog Joaquin and Bastian’s dog Scooter, honorary hosts of the event who received certificates from Councilwoman Jan Perry. “This has gone way beyond what we ever planned,” the pastor told The Tidings. “When we started this, we had about 30 dogs and 20 people — and now it’s just exploded. People are searching for community, and what helps create community are our pets. But we don’t have many venues yet downtown like dog parks for people to congregate. And so this has just become traditionally one of the biggest venues, probably in the world, where you have so many pets assembled together. “And the goal of this really was to have downtown people meet and support one another. This is what cathedral plazas were for. They were for music and concerts and arts and festivals.”Event co-founder Bastian readily agreed. “This is all about creating community,” he said with Scooter, a young Nova Scotia Duck Tolling retriever mix at his side. “Every year it grows, and it just kind of happens organically and people show up and they have a good time. I think the greatest thing about the event is it has no agenda other than just, you know, community and people and fellowship. Isn’t that what a cathedral should be about?“I think dogs are great enablers for us to experience our humanity without pretense, without the shell, without the defense,” he observed. “And we’ve got lots of dogs and people out here this evening, which is really great to see.”Learning social skillsNearby, Anne Maria Tafoya was cradling Sophia, a Pete-Pomeranian with a cute black nose, stuck-up ears and brimming brown eyes, in her arms. The 43-year-old urbanite works in the Los Angeles County’s Office of Emergency Management just across Temple Street in the Hall of Administration. “I think this event is amazing,” she said. “There’s so many dog-lovers downtown now. So it’s a good socialization for dogs and humans. You talk to people you probably never would have before. It’s good for all of us. Sophia’s a shy puppy. So our job is to go to different events to get her socialized a little bit better around people and other dogs.Don Allen said his five-year-old Tramp, named after Charlie Chaplin, was a “total mutt” from unequal parts Wire Hair Doxen, Snoozer and possibly Poodle. The professional dog-walker for Walk Fido company found him two years ago after walking across the concrete-covered Los Angeles River to East L.A. “This is the third year I’ve been to this event, and I always have a blast,” Allen said, smiling. “I look forward to it. I woke up this morning in a crappy mood, and then it was like ‘Oh, I’ve got something to look forward to.’ And I’ve never seen a dog fight once. I think it’s because people who come here have, you know, well-manned dogs. I think people who have crazy dogs stay inside and hide.” One of the big — really big — hits of the Downtown Dog Day Afternoon was Bernie, a 140-pound Great Pyrenees. His handler, Lois Longo of Sierra Madre, pointed out that while the breed traditionally protected shepherds and sheep from wolves and bears in the Basque country of Spain, they were actually “gentle giants” around people. Bernie, in fact, has become a busy therapy dog, visiting Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, along with a local hospice and library. “This is our ministry,” she reported.Glancing around at the growing plaza crowd, Longo said, “I think it’s wonderful because everybody downtown gets together. This is my fifth year, and it’s funny that some years there’s one kind of dog that’s more prevalent than others. One time it was a Miniature Bull Terrier. And I’ve seen a lot of Mastiffs tonight. But it’s really nice just being downtown outside.”God’s creaturesArchbishop José Gomez was one of the downtowners out and about on this balmy summer night. The prelate said he liked dogs, an affection he probably inherited from his mother. “They are creatures of God, so we have to take care of them,” he said. “And they’re good companions. So they are one more manifestation of God’s love for us.”Strolling through the plaza, he recognized Bernie, stopping to have his picture taken with the gentle Great Pyrenees and Longo, who has volunteered at the Cathedral since it was dedicated in 2002. “This is a wonderful event because it’s helping us to make the cathedral an active partner in the downtown community,” pointed out the archbishop. “That was part of the idea of Cardinal Mahony when he built it.“It’s helped us to show people that we are interested in having an active role in the life of Southern California. I think all our parishes do that. But the cathedral, as the mother church, should do the same. So it’s a wonderful use of the plaza. It’s a beautiful space and we have visitors here from all the different parts of the world. So I think we need to show the community that they are always welcome here at the cathedral.” {gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2011/0805/dogday/{/gallery}