Lake Norman & Mooresville

Some dogs really had their day at Bark in the Park competitions

A 2-year-old chocolate Labrador named Axel, owned by Robert Formeck of Charlotte, tries to catch a disk during the Long Shot competition. Axel placed second in the long shot during the 2015 Bark in the Park Top Dog Festival.
A 2-year-old chocolate Labrador named Axel, owned by Robert Formeck of Charlotte, tries to catch a disk during the Long Shot competition. Axel placed second in the long shot during the 2015 Bark in the Park Top Dog Festival. MARTY PRICE

Despite rainy weather, hundreds of dogs and their owners showed up for the Bark in the Park Top Dog Festival at Historic Rural Hill on April 25. There were many different contests for the dogs and their handlers to compete for prizes and bragging rights.

As the contestants in the smallest dog contest waited to be weighed, a 3.7 pound Chihuahua named Little Bit was hiding inside of Khrista Messinger’s coat, with only its head visible to the crowd. She kept sticking her head out to give Messinger kisses as the crowd watched, then retreated inside the coat when she became nervous.

Asheville resident Michelle Sessoms was holding her 2-year-old Chihuahua in one hand as she approached the scales. Weighing only 2.4 pounds, Gidget won the smallest dog contest, with Little Bit coming in third.

Mooresville resident Marci Herron said that her Barkeley was “more of a goalie than a catcher,” as they competed in the long shot competition – where owners throw a flying disc and the dog must catch it to advance to the next round.

Barkeley did fine in the early rounds, actually catching a couple throws at closer distances. When the mark was moved back to 40 feet, he proved Herron true as the disc approached and bounced off of him without him trying to catch it. Barkeley finished the competition in third place.

Abe, a 2-year-old German Shepherd mix, was the only dog able to catch a throw at close to 40 feet, winning first place with his owner, Kris Steele of Charlotte. Charlotte resident Robert Formeck threw to his 2-year-old chocolate Labrador named Axel just short of Abe’s mark, winning second place in the long shot.

In addition to the contests and vendors there was an Ultimate Air Dogs performance – where dogs jump off a dock 2 feet above the water to chase a toy and make the most distance possible – to introduce dog owners to dock jumping.

Chris Blankenship and his wife Alicia, owners of Boone Docks Bird Dogs of Waxhaw, brought their two German short-hair pointers to show their skills jumping. Abbie and Deacon ran down the dock and jumped skyward as they chased the throw toy.

Deacon made the longer jump – 13 feet 7 inches, not even half of the 30 feet 2 inch world record, but enough to elicit applause from the crowd.

After the performance, owners were invited to bring their dogs to the dock to try the experience – with mixed results.

There were also contests for largest dog, best costume, cutest puppy, owner look-alike as well as toss and catch. But the highest honor was Purina Top Dog.

Mint Hill resident Christie Garland hurried towards the stage with her 9-year-old Dalmatian, Godiva, for the announcement. “I have entered her here in previous years for other competitions, but this is the first time I entered her in the Top Dog contest,” Garland said.

First time was a charm as her beloved Godiva won first place and the bragging rights as Purina’s Top Dog for 2015. Next year Godiva’s bragging rights will be extended: Her portrait will join those of previous winners on the top dog sign at the entrance of the event as well as on a T-shirt proclaiming her win.

Marty Price is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marty? Email him at martyprice53@gmail.com

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