Sunday, March 6, 2011

Dodger's Walkathon Weekend

I know Suncoast Puppy Raisers were well represented at the 25th annual Walkathon this weekend – I saw you! I also know everyone's experience was different; I thought I'd share mine.

On Friday night, as a sort of prelude to the festivities, a few of us Suncoasters joined puppy raisers, trainers, and breeder hosts from Texas, North Carolina, Jacksonville, and Bradenton for dinner at The Crab Trap in Ellenton. With all the dogs under the table, it felt kind of like flying coach with a Great Dane, but the canines were on their best behavior – and so were the humans once the sweet potato chips arrived. (Which makes me wonder, if we were puppies, how many of us would make it as guide dogs and how many would get dropped for food obsession?)

Saturday morning the real fun began. Since I was bringing both Dodger and Bagheera, I had arranged to meet the McLeans so that Fred could walk one of my dogs. Walkathon is a chaotic event – like one of our puppy meetings times 100. There are tons of people you know and want to talk to, and tons more you don't know and want to meet – and a hyped-up puppy at the end of the leash demanding your full attention! So when I finally met up with Cheryl and Fred, I was glad to find them standing near a bunch of others from our group.

After a registration process that brought on DMV flashbacks (or perhaps it was just a demonstration of my uncanny knack for picking the slowest line), I threw on my Walkathon T-shirt, got the boys dressed in their new bandannas, and joined the group for chat and some group photos, like this one where, apparently, we are posing for one camera and the dogs for another:

There's an even nicer pic with the water in the background, but Dodger and I are not front and center in that one, so you'll have to find it on your own. (And thank you in advance to all who unwittingly lent these photos to my post. Please contact me before calling your lawyer.)

Then we walked. The new venue this year has a nice promenade along the water, and the circuit is one mile per lap. I heard the "route" is three laps, but I noticed a huge dropoff of walkers after lap one. But man, what a great lap one! I got to talk prednisone with Rick & Kerry Kriseman while Cheryl & Fred were... well, I don't know what they were doing. And then a train (a real, big one) rolled by, no doubt planned as a great exposure for the pups. And then the finish line! Woo-hoo!

We were all game to go lap two, then we ran smash into a canine version of six degrees of Kevin Bacon. (Funny, I don't think Dodger or Bagheera was related to anyone. Can you lose at that game?) We went about 10 feet in an hour. We were exhausted. Fortunately, a smaller train came by that we hopped on for a ride. We were looking to log another lap, but it went about 50 yards and came back where we started. Bummer. "But at least it was a good exposure." (Standard PR response to disappointment.)

Rick had to catch a bus back home (weird, huh?), so the McLean-Bauer entourage set out alone. It was a lonely trip the second time around, with a few brave volunteers manning oases of bottled water, scattered here and there among the tumbleweeds. The vigorous young pups, Dodger and Berkeley, did not look like they could go a third lap, so we called it a walk.

About that time, I caught sight of Judy Bordignon with Dodger's mother, Jamie. I flagged down Judy, who went to get Brenda Means and Promise, Jamie's mom, for a family photo. Here are Jamie (on the left), her son Dodger, and Dodger's grandma Promise in a canine Oreo:

Sprinkled between the many passers-by who wanted to pet the dogs, I got to meet and chat with Bobby Newman for a while and got some training tips from Rick Holden, and Bagheera got to reunite with his sister Cate and meet Cate's family from Indiana. Whew! By then it was well past time for lunch, and by now it's well past time to end this post.

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