My wife, Laurel, is a volunteer for the Willamette Humane Society here in Salem, Oregon. She walks shelter dogs one day a week, along with walking our dogs every day of the week.
Yesterday she helped out at the 2013 WillaMutt Strut event at Riverfront Park. Here's Laurel with our younger, smaller dog, Zu Zu. She aided Annie Ingersoll, Humane Society dog trainer extraordinaire (in straw hat) at the Teach Your Dog a Trick booth.
Naturally I demanded to see a trick. Here's a video of Laurel complying.
We left old dog Serena at home. I wanted to defend our hard-won last place finish in the 2012 1.5K Mutt Strut Walk, figuring that with Serena another year older and slower (she's thirteen and a half), we'd have an excellent chance of coming in last again.
But Laurel said she needed to stay at the booth during the 1.5K and 5K Mutt Struts, so I'd have to take Zu Zu on the walk.
No problem. With a 16 ounce mug of coffee in hand, I was ready to go. This year I wanted to do a yin and yang thing: after coming in last in the 2012 1.5K walk, I wanted to be first in the 2013 5K walk.
I felt good at the start line. And after the 5K walk got underway, I sensed that both Zu and Zu and I were poised for greatness. However, even though I'm married to a habitually fast woman walker, I'd forgotten how quickly females can strut, with or without a mutt.
For the entire route -- across the Union Street pedestrian bridge, through Wallace Marine Park, and back to the end of Riverfront Park -- I watched this woman's distinctive hat remain considerably ahead of me and Zu Zu.
She rocked at the Mutt Strut.
I consider that she was first in the 5K walk, since two people who may have finished ahead of her jogged at times. Her dog also took home the WillaMutt honor (most muttiest mutt). I was fifth in this nominally non-competitive walk that I dearly wanted to win.
However, after mentally eliminating the two 5K walk Struters who jogged here and there, and giving myself a 30 second credit for picking up Zu Zu dog poop close to the finish line (here's a photo of me with the bagged evidence after we finished), and another 30 second credit for Zu Zu pausing to sniff scents more than other dogs did, I give myself Second Place.
Next year... who knows what could be possible with a larger mug of coffee. And making sure Zu Zu poops at home before the Mutt Strut.
A highlight of the event for me was a danceoff between Mascot Dog and Mascot Bear. They did their dancing thing while music played for a musical chairs dog game. In the video above I've strung together their oh-so-cute dances.
Didn't show who won, because anyone who dances energetically in dog and bear suits on an August day is a winner to me.
However, the same "everybody is a winner" doesn't apply to the final event of the Mutt Strut, the above-mentioned WillaMutt muttiest mutt judging. I'd entered last year with Zu Zu and lost. I wasn't planning to try again this year, but Laurel shoved me out into the judging area when the competition began.
Laurel does the dog training in our home, so when Annie Ingersoll asked to see what tricks the prospective WillaMutt's could do, I was left essentially trickless -- even though Zu Zu knows quite a few. I couldn't even get our dog to sit, since Zu Zu was focused on running back to Laurel.
Desperate to garner some laughs, since I wasn't showing off Zu Zu's muttness very well, I told Annie that I had an unusual ability to time-travel my dog tricks.
Demonstrating, after Zu Zu started walking toward Laurel I said "walk!" After she laid down I said "lay!" I tried to convince the judging audience that Zu Zu was responding to my commands in a time-inverted psychic corner of the cosmos.
From the pitiful applause we got, which determined the WillaMutt winner, it appears that either (1) Zu Zu is just too damn cute to be the WIllaMutt, or (2) I am terrible at selling her WillaMutt'ness. Or, most likely, both.
I probably should switch to the Lookalike contest next year.
This was the female part of the couple that won this time. The guy she was with wore a different colored tutu. Hey, I could pull something like that off.