SCARBOROUGH – Sure, Charlie the 13-year-old bichon frise may be able to play a miniature piano on stage using his front paws. Impressive, but that wasn’t enough to win him the top prize at Woofminster 2013, the eighth annual Planet Dog Foundation dog show.
But really Saturday’s amateur dog show at Camp Ketcha in Scarborough wasn’t about the competition. It’s a fundraising event, nothing like the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Any dog could enter, and mixed-breeds were more than welcome.
Charlie’s piano feat earned him first place in the “best trick” category, and he went on to compete in other categories. But Charlie’s owner, Cathy Pierce, didn’t seem as interested in the prize as she was in happily chatting with other dog owners about her plucky dog’s abilities. She didn’t even hear at first when the announcer declared Charlie a winner.
“He knows 25 tricks, actually,” said Pierce, who traveled from Swampscott, Mass., with her husband, Dan, and their other dog, Bacio, a collie, to attend the dog show.
“He crawls like a snake. He jumps in the shower,” Pierce said, ticking off Charlie’s accomplishments. “He goes in circles to the right, to the left.”
Her husband caught her attention as she talked, gesturing to the stage where Charlie’s trophy awaited him.
More than 100 people turned out for the fundraiser early Saturday afternoon. They gathered with their dogs, for what seemed as much an oversized doggy play date as it was a dog show.
“It’s sort of a celebration that dogs have with their people and all things that dogs can do to bring joy to the people around them,” said Kristen Smith, executive director of the Planet Dog Foundation, who oversaw Saturday’s event.
The foundation, which provides grants to train, place and support service dogs, has raised about $1 million in the past eight years. The foundation is the charitable arm of Planet Dog, a Westbrook company that designs and develops dog products and operates a store in Portland.
Smith said she expected Saturday’s event to raise about $3,000 once the money is tallied, on par with what the dog show earned in past years.
The event allowed dog owners to mingle, show off their pets and win a prize in categories including mystery mutt, doggy limbo, best beggar and musical dog beds.
Brian Hays of Swanton, Vt., and his sister-in-law Linda Kiel came to the dog show with his English setter, Jet, while his wife, Kelly, was in Portland to attend a veterinary conference.
Kiel said she saw a flier advertising Woofminster 2013 posted at Hinckley Park, a popular dog destination in South Portland, and thought it would be a fun thing for her and Hays to do.
Jet, at 11, was more reserved than many of the dogs at the dog show, content to watch for birds, but was a contender in both the musical dog beds and 50-paw dash events.
The most coveted prize was the Cover Dog Challenge, to decide which of the dogs at the show would be picked for the cover photo of the Planet Dog catalog.
The winner, Beti, a 7-year-old vizsla, jumped in the arms of her owner, Tracy Tischler of Portland, and licked her in the face after the judges announced their decision. Beti spent most of the day dressed in a lobster costume and is certified as a therapy dog.
“Not a day goes by when I don’t say she’s the best dog I’ve ever seen,” Tischler said, holding a best of show trophy in her hand.
The panel of five judges consisted of Luc Bergeron, owner of Kamp K9 in Scarborough; Shannon Bryan, editor of MaineToday Media’s entertainment website, www.mainetoday.com; Chris Kast of the Brand Co. in Portland; Jill Mansir, owner of Camp Bow Wow in Portland, and Bill Nemitz, a columnist for the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram.
Scott Dolan can be contacted at: 791-6304 or at: