A "Howl-o-ween" event held at the Lehighton Community Grove in Lehighton had two purposes and both were accomplished.

One purpose was fun. About 15 dogs had costumes put on them and were paraded in front of a panel of judges, competing for prizes for their masters.

The other purpose was socializing. This aspect not only had individuals swapping stories about unfortunate dogs receiving a second chance, but also resulted in several homeless dogs getting adopted.

The event was sponsored by the Amazing Grace Spay/Neuter Program of Carbon County.

Thomas Zimmerman IV, coordinator of the event, said five animal rescue groups participated.

Dogs that participated in the costume judging were dressed as a witch, bumble bees, a mermaid, a sheriff, a skeleton, and even a chicken. Fortunately for them, none were dealt the humiliating assignment of wearing a cat costume.

It was the stories behind the scene which accentuated the success of the second annual event.

Terry Terray of Lehighton has had a tough year, and attendance at the event may have provided a little healing to her broken heart. It also found her a new friend.

She had two dogs for pets, a lab mix and a collie/shepherd mix. They both had to be put to sleep last March.

"My husband never got over that," she said.

On Sept. 23, she became a widow when her husband, Robert, died suddenly.

While strolling the grounds of the Howl-o-ween event, she spied a black border collie mix, which she petted, and then picked up. The dog was displayed by Friends of Pep, an animal rescue unit from Gouldsboro.

Terray walked around the festival holding the dog and made up her mind: she would adopt her.

What convinced her?

"She was kissing me, so I know she likes me," Terray said.

Steve and Jen Serfass of Palmerton attended the event with their children, Ben, 8, and Hannah, 4. A Shih Tzu-yorkie mix caught the attention of the children. Steve and Jen seemed to like it, too.

After weighing the pros and cons in their mind, and listening to the pleas of the children, the Serfass family put in an application to adopt the 5-year-old dog. If selected, this will be their first dog.

Also attracted to a Shih Tzu-yorkie were Lisa and Jeff Solt of Lansford. They have another dog, Mindy, a Lhasa Apso. They applied to adopt the pet, hoping it will keep Mindy company.

Most of the animal rescue groups investigate to make sure the perspective adoptee will get a good home before releasing it.

People who showed their animals had stories to tell, too.

Al Barnhart of McAdoo was dressed as a prisoner. So were his dogs, Panzer, a German shepherd, and Gidget, a Yorkshire terrier. They depicted an insane asylum. They got a first-place prize for the get-up.

Barnhart noted that he got Panzer in 2002, after the dog was rescued from an apartment building fire in Hazleton. He was trapped in the fire and overcome with smoke when firefighters found him and carried him to safety.

Another strike to Panzer came when his previous master found a new apartment and wasn't able to take Panzer with him. As a result, Panzer was scheduled to be euthanized.

Barnhart, a retired Hazleton police officer, knew about the fire rescue and adopted Panzer.

"He's a wonderful dog, a very loving dog," said Barnhart, who has another shepherd which is trained as a K-9 dog.

Sandy Wisnewski of Franklin Township had her dog, "Cody," dressed in a costume. It was at last year's Howl-o-ween event that she found Cody, a schnoodle, and adopted him.

The most touching scene was seeing "Rocket" participate in the judging.

Rocket is a dachshund/schnauzer mix. What makes this 1 1/2-year-old dog so special is that he has a broken back, and utilizes a cart as his rear legs.

The dog is owned by Jim and Bonnie McKeone of Schuylkill Haven, who adopted Rocket after hearing about the broken back. It's not certain how the dog's back got broken, but possibly he was struck by a car.

Dr. Mary Lombardo of the Mahoning Valley Animal Hospital had treated the McKeones' other pet, a St. Bernard, and informed the couple about Rocket.

They made the adoption last Dec. 23, two days before Christmas. At first the McKeones had to regularly drain the bladder of Rocket. Now Rocket lets them know when he needs to go outside.

In addition, the McKeones have resorted to therapy and Rocket has begun moving his legs.

The St. Bernard, Daisy, has become "real protective of Rocket," Jim said.

Jim said he and his wife found out that with his previous owner, Rocket was tied outside, had received no shots, and was suffering from Lyme disease.

Bonnie laughed and said, "Now he's a spoiled, little brat. And he loves chicken."

The first place winners in the costume-judging event were:

• Best Dressed - Chewy, a Pekingese dressed as a ninja and showed by Nicholas Chiaro of Friends of Pep, Gouldsboro.

• Cutest - Baby, a 5-month old Chihuahua/yorkie mix dressed as a chicken in a basket and showed by Kate Scott of Friends of Pep, Gouldsboro.

• Funniest - Jada, a miniature pinscher dressed as a little mermaid and owned by Melissa Hunsicker of Lehighton.

• Most Original - Skye, a Great Pyrenees colored as a "zebra-nese" and owned by Angie Wychulis of Lehighton.

• Best Dressed - Queenie, a Chihuahua dressed as a "country gal" and owned by Christin Kehler of Nesquehoning.

• Scariest - Panzer, a German shepherd, and Gidget, a Yorkshire terrier, dressed as "insane asylum" and owned by Al Barnhart of McAdoo.