August 16, 2012 10:30 pm  •  By GWEN FLORIO of the Missoulian

If you have a pet – or, even better, if you want one – this is your weekend.

Saturday’s seventh annual Pet Fest in Missoula’s Caras Park will feature a streamlined pet adoption process that will see prospective owners through meeting and choosing their new pets, to registering and microchipping them, and stocking up on pet food and accessories on the spot.

“You can leave Pet Fest with everything you need for your newly adopted animal,” said Megan Baumann, co-owner of Marketplace Media, which organizes Pet Fest.

Adoption facilities from all over western Montana will bring adoption-ready animals to Pet Fest.

The Missoula-based Humane Society of Western Montana even arranged to have about 30 “littles” brought in from California – the tiny dogs that many people crave, but that are hard to come by in Montana, said Mariah Scheskie, the Humane Society’s program manager.

The littles come from a San Francisco-area group called New Beginnings, which partners with the Humane Society here for adoptions, she said. “This group pulls dogs from other shelters that have really low adoption rates through no fault of their own,” she said. The last time the Humane Society took on a batch of small dogs from New Beginnings, they were adopted within a matter of days, she said.

All of the dogs – chihuahuas, terriers, dachshunds and mixed breeds – have been vaccinated, and were to be spayed and neutered before Saturday’s event, she said. (You can see photos of several of the littles on the Humane Society of Western Montana’s Facebook page.)

Marnie Russ of Missoula, who usually fosters kittens for the Humane Society, took one of the littles needing fostering home as soon as he arrived in Missoula. She figures the miniature black-and-white dog is a little bit chihuahua, a little bit terrier. For sure, the dog she calls Skeeter is a lot affectionate.

“I was going to put him in a kennel, but he slept right on my pillow last night,” she said.

The Humane Society got a grant from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals that’s paying for a lot of free stuff at Pet Fest.

Such as? Free microchips for the first 170 animals in line. Free identification tags and collars. Free magnets displaying phone numbers for free help lines.

Scheskie said the idea is to direct people to the Humane Society’s “safety net” programs that are designed to help people keep their pets, rather than having to turn them over to an adoption facility.

Pet Fest also celebrates people who already have pets, with a Doggie Olympics that includes events such as the Peanut Butter Lick, Dunking for Hot Dogs and Musical Sit.

And, of course (drum roll), the Wiener Dog Dash, with Mayor John Engen calling the races.

Year after year, the dachshund races are Pet Fest’s most popular event, Baumann said.

“I just think the people who own dachshunds are very, very proud of their dachshunds,” she said. “People come down in team T-shirts.”

The Wiener Dog Dash kicks off at 2 p.m. and features the following age categories: Little Smokies, up to 3 years; Frankfurters, 3-6 years; and Bratwurst, 6 years and older.

Even if you don’t have a pet, the Wiener Dog Dash is worth watching. And who knows? By the time you leave Pet Fest, you may be going home with a pet of your own.

Reporter Gwen Florio can be reached at 523-5268, gwen.florio@missoulian.com.