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Calling all incredible dogs

Shauna Farnell

Information:

The Vail Nordic Center is located on 1778 Vail Valley Drive on the east side of town. Registration for the public flying disc qualifier begins at 9 a.m. Friday. For more information on the Incredible Dog Challenge, visit http://www.dogchow.com.

VAIL – They might not be recognized on the Olympic podium, but athletic dogs have a chance to shine at the Purina Dog Chow Incredible Dog Challenge in Vail.

Organizer Meier Raivich refers to the event as “the X Games for dogs,” and “a showcase of the world’s most athletic canines.”

The Challenge begins at 10 a.m. Friday and includes a sled dog sprint, mini musher, skijoring and freestyle flying disc competitions. While most of the events are invitational, the disc competition is open to the public.

“We’ll invite the public – folks that think they have a dog that can catch a Frisbee pretty well,” said Bud Hanson, brand manager for Purina and an organizer of the Dog Challenge. “For the Frisbee qualifier Friday, we take the first 20 people that sign up. If they win, they get a year’s supply of dog chow, and the right to compete with the rest of the field Saturday. The people judging are looking for talent. We want the best dogs we can find, and we want to make it entertaining.”

Signup for the qualifier begins at 9 a.m. Friday at the Vail Nordic Center. The finals begin at 11 a.m. Saturday.

For the flying disc competition, teams of dog and human will perform a 2-minute freestyle Frisbee routine set to music. Judging is based on difficulty of the routine, leaping ability and showmanship.

“The winter event is a little different,” Hanson said. “It takes advantage of natural elements involving snow. A lot of people aren’t used to throwing the Frisbee for their dogs in the winter.”

The avalanche rescue portion will take place at Copper Mountain and will be a race against time. A dog handler and two ski patrollers will locate and dig out a person buried under the snow. The sled dog competition consists of 10 teams with six dogs racing in pairs on a 5K course. In the mini musher competition, elementary school children will race a one-dog sled on a 50-yard course. For the skijoring competition, teams of one dog and a cross-country racer attached by cord and harness will race on a 5K course.

Vail is the first stop for the Incredible Dog Challenge, which continues in the summer in five cities throughout the United States. Winners from Saturday’s regional final earn a spot in the National Championships, which take place Sept. 28 in St. Louis, Miss. Portions of the Vail competition will be broadcast on the TBS Network.


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