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21st Annual Dog Olympics at College of Veterinary Medicine Brings Out the Best in Canine Athletes

Photograph by Ray Black III

RALEIGH — The crowd Saturday in Raleigh was a lot smaller than in London last month for the Summer Olympics, but those present were just as excited to see the Olympians and Paralympians who were competing.
The difference was that the athletes at the 21st annual Dog Olympics hosted by N.C. State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine had four legs. They were also more interested in the doggie treats than the medals they received for their performance.

Dogs competed in events such as best trick, rolling over, the limbo, high jumping, howling and musical sit.
“He got a lot of beef jerky and a lot of social time in today,” said Marcy Bullock of Cary, whose dog, Mojo, a sheltie, won a gold medal, a silver medal and lots of treats on Saturday.

Other dogs, or more accurately their owners, came to match their success at prior Dog Olympics.
Susan Stephenson of Smithfield came with Katie, an English springer, who won two gold medals and a bronze medal last year. Katie did even better this year with two gold medals and a silver medal.

It was also Katie’s swan song from competitive performing. Stephenson said she was retiring the 7-year-old dog, who has been doing 30 minutes a day of training, including jumping through hoops.

“This has been a big day for her,” Stephenson said.

Much like human Paralympians, Boaz came Saturday to send a message that disabilities don’t have to hold you back. The pug became a paraplegic five years ago when a vehicle hit him and broke one of his vertebra.

Boaz’ owners, Steve and Alice Prophater of Blaine in Montgomery County, says it shows that dogs who have disabilities don’t have to be put down. Now they’re looking at getting Boaz certified as a therapy dog so they can bring him into veterans hospitals.

“It gives people encouragement that if he can get by, then they can get by with their limitations,” said Steve Prophater.
The event remains a magnet for dog lovers and their canine friends.

Even though Laura Barnett of Raleigh has a cast on her left foot following a recent surgery and needs an orthopedic scooter to move around, she still came Saturday with her husband, Andy.

“We love dogs and we love cheap entertainment,” said Andy Barnett.

Ethan Byrd, 2, of Raleigh, loves dogs even though he’s allergic to them. So his parents, Ben and Angela, brought him to the festivities.

“This is a way to burn through 2-year-old energy,” said Ben Byrd.

Spectators and participants at the Veterinary Health Complex off Hillsborough Street near the N.C. Fairgrounds were serenaded by songs such as “The Doggie in the Window,” “Puppy Love” and “Squeaky-Deakey.”

But amid all the fun, the Dog Olympics also had the serious purpose of raising money for local animal rescue groups. Groups lined “Rescue Row” to provide information about their groups, including how people can adopt dogs.

Second Chance Pet Adoptions of Raleigh, which calls itself the Triangle’s oldest no-kill rescue program, brought Griffin to the event. Griffin, a Walker Hound, is now in foster care after being found abandoned in Wake Forest earlier this year.

Lisa Imhof, director of Second Chance, said that the continued weak economy has resulted in owners abandoning their pets. She said events like the Dog Olympics expand the number of people who want to volunteer and adopt the rescue dogs.

“Even if people aren’t ready to adopt, when they can they know we’re here,” she said.

“First Look” photo gallery of 21st Annual Dog Olympics by News and Observer photographer Ray Black III