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Dogs have their day at St. Pete park

Tribune staff
Published:   |   Updated: May 4, 2013 at 11:13 PM
ST. PETERSBURG -

A copper-haired beagle pug hopped over hurdles, raced across arched platforms and barreled through tunnels.

A shiny black Labrador retriever bounded off a dock into the air and splashed into a pool.

The lab probably wasn't aware of her people's goal for her to be the eastern regional champion at the Purina Pro Plan Incredible Dog Challenge on Saturday at Spa Beach Park in St. Petersburg.

At 2 years old, Story has jumped more than 27 feet, winning her the distinction of Ultimate Air Dog champion last year and an invitation to Saturday's competition.

“She's very focused and she's very fast,” said J.D. McKnight, who traveled from West Milton, Ohio, with his wife, Ronalee, to enter Story in the contest.

“She needs a job and she likes this job,” said Ronalee McKnight.

“She's a field lab, so if you don't keep her busy, she's getting into things you don't want her to get into,” she said.

Dogs and their handlers from all over the eastern United States came to St. Petersburg for the show, which has been held in the city several times since the event started 16 years ago.

Sixty dogs competed in events like an obstacle course measuring agility, dock diving, weaving around polls and fetching discs.

The top dogs received an invitation to the national finals in St. Louis in October, where they will compete against the previous year's champions.

The contest drew a good crowd on a breezy morning at the waterfront park. Many people brought their own dogs to the park to watch, including Clearwater residents Dave and Jennifer Willis, who came with their two pointer mixes.

Of course, the dogs don't know if they get first or sixth place, said Jim Allen, brand manager for Purina Pro Plan.

“In 16 years of managing this program, you know what I've never seen? I've never seen a dog complain that it lost,” Allen said.

“The dogs win, lose or draw, they're having fun,” Allen said, “so that's what this is about.”


“We brought them out here to socialize them a little bit and see what the course was like,” Dave Willis said.

As for the competitors, they don't get prize money and there are no golden dog biscuits – just a medal and a champion's bragging rights.


jboatwright@tampatrib.com

(727) 215-1277

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