Dog owners to strut their mutts on the Fourth

Every dog may be a good boy, but which member of Wrangell's canine community is the best boy?

Scratch that, it's an unanswerable question. And one that the Fourth of July dog show will not seek to address. Instead, the event will offer dogs and their owners the chance to display their unique personal style and stellar obedience skills - or lack thereof - in the company of fellow dogs and dog lovers.

Prizes will be awarded, but for Joan Sargent of St. Frances Animal Rescue, "every dog is a winner."

Wrangell's pups can exhibit their abilities in a variety of events. Fashion-forward people and pups might gravitate toward the costume event, where dogs and their owners show off their matching outfits.

Athletic dogs may opt for the agility trial, in which owners lead their pets through an obstacle course consisting of cones and a small jump, adjusted to the size of each dog. The event is timed, so the speediest dogs will be the winners.

The dog-calling competition showcases the animals' loyalty in the face of temptation. "We lay out about 50 feet of a mixture of dog food and treats and toys," said Sargent. "There will be a handler there ... who will hold the dog at one end of this gauntlet. The time starts when they (the owner) calls their dog. The dog needs to come straight to you and not eat."

"It's pretty entertaining," she laughed.

Last year, Anne Morrison volunteered as one of the dog show judges and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The event is a major draw for spectators and participants alike, and she was impressed by how many people got involved.

Morrison also stressed that the competition welcomes dogs of all personalities and discipline levels. Though the well-behaved dogs put on amazing performances, she remembers all the dogs fondly, even the unruly ones. "Watching that little Jack Russell Terrier take off whenever he wanted to was the funniest thing," she said.

"It was fun to see how well some of them had been trained," she added. "It was also fun to see those that had a mind of their own."

That said, organizers have put certain rules in place for participant safety. Dogs must be leashed at all times, except when competing in the agility trial or dog-calling event.

Treats, however, are allowed. "If your dog responds better to a treat rather than you," Sargent said, "then that's OK."

Registration is on a first-come, first-served basis. Ideally, the competition will be limited to about 15 entries - if the event stretches on too long, dogs can overheat in the July sun. If more than 15 people want to enter their dogs, Sargent would consider splitting the competition into two heats. "You want to cut it off, but you don't want to cut it off," she said of the number of entries. "We try to be really flexible so that everyone can have fun. ... Our concern is for the animals."

There will be prizes offered to the winning dogs in each category, but for Sargent, they aren't a particularly important part of the show. The point, she explained, is "for people who have dogs to get together and hang out."

The event has been running for three years and typically has a high turnout.

Its time and date this year has not yet been set, but it will be part of the Fourth of July weekend festivities. If weather serves, the competition will be held in a cordoned-off area near City Dock. If it's rainy, it will be held at the covered basketball court behind Evergreen Elementary.

The event is sponsored by Cooper's Corner, a handmade gift business owned by Kimberly Szczatko, and St. Frances Animal Rescue.


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