Events and Happenings for animal lovers

Jan 10, 2010

Wish I had heard about this one – SALI would have been up at Whistler to see the incredible world of sporting dogs and to catch the Olympic spirit!

Bonny Makarewicz Photos – For the Province

Canines eat up Incredible Dog Challenge

First time for Purina-sponsored competition in Great White North

Clare Ogilvie

The Province

Sunday, January 10, 2010

For man and his best friend, this weekend’s Incredible Dog Challenge is the closest thing they’ll get to a Canine Olympics.

So hosting the annual event in the resort home of the 2010 Olympics just seemed to make sense to its sponsor, Purina.

“I was on the mountain for the man-versus-dog slalom race . . . and if you didn’t know any better, you would have thought you were at an Olympic event waiting for the skier to come down to the bottom of the slope and finish, so it gave it an Olympic feel,” said Jim Allen, Purina’s brand manager, on Saturday.

The challenge, now in its 12th year, is held annually.

People and their pooches compete for bragging rights, medals and free dog food. Most contests are held in the U.S., but Purina also hosted one in Sydney just before Australia’s Olympics in 2000.

This is the event’s first Canadian stop.

Proceeds raised locally are to be divided between Whistler’s animal shelter, WAG, and the Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association.

For local Karen Smith Williamson it was a chance to try something new — skijoring, a sport where owners harness up their dogs for some help being pulled while nordic skiing.

“My problem is that [Ringo the dingo] has been very well trained, and he doesn’t like to pull,” Smith Williamson said after completing the first heat of the race. “He thinks he isn’t allowed to.”

Bob Fawcett of Whistler Dog sledding, a seasoned skijoring racer, made it through to the finals, with Nighty Night and Winter finishing third in a time of four minutes, 33 seconds on the track that’s about a kilometre long.

“They had a bit of a rough time today, as it was soft,” Fawcett said, noting that he took a spill as well.

“Skijoring is huge in Europe and I think it will catch on here.”

Saturday’s winner came all the way from Colorado for the challenge. “We want to promote the sport of skijoring,” said Stephanie Dwyer, who participated along with two-year-old canine collaborator Django. “Anybody can do it.”

The event can be viewed at pet in coming days, and will be televised shortly. Last year’s challenge will air on ABC-TV on Jan. 24.

© The Province 2010