- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 14, 2004

Pork Chop raced through hoops, tubes and obstacles at the Pet Fest America dog show yesterday, his tongue hanging from his mouth.

The Boston terrier was one of about 50 “super dogs” at the MCI Center performing in two matinees sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States.

“There are SARS outbreaks and all sorts of anxieties in the news,” said Nicholas R. Braden, director of public relations for the society. “This is a chance for people to take a break and celebrate the special bond they have with their pets.”

An estimated 5,000 children and adults witnessed the first matinee, which included drag races, time trials and high-jump competitions.

“The races are my favorite,” said Amy Nelson, 10, of Woodbridge. “I love it.”

Amy’s mother, Jackie Nelson, said she won the tickets at a movie theater and was attending her first dog show.

Carroll Thrift, event coordinator, said many of the animal performers, owner-trained and sponsored by the Iams pet-food company, were adopted at shelters.

Pork Chop, an audience favorite, was adopted from the Toronto Humane Society.

“We’ve got jumpers, Frisbee catchers, speed dogs, slow dogs and comedians,” Mr. Thrift said.

Children in the audience giggled when Garth Brooks, an American Eskimo dog, took an impromptu bathroom break after losing a drag race, and when Tadpole, an English terrier, stole his owner’s sneaker during a time trial.

Pet psychic Karen S. Wrigley, one of about 40 exhibitors at the event, said she could pick up the emotional vibrations of the performers.

“I telepathically communicate with animals, in the same way that some people tune into a radio station,” Mrs. Wrigley said. “I broadcast to the animal and the animal broadcasts back.”

Audience members spent the 20-minute intermission browsing the exhibits, which included a K-9 unit from the District’s Metropolitan Police Department.

Exhibits covered such topics as dog ownership, rescue, rental, adoption, health, supplies and mental wellness.

“People care about the welfare of their pets,” said Mrs. Wrigley, adding that she works from home and does 90 percent of her business over the telephone. “Is the animal happy? Will it die?”

The MCI Center was one stop on the dog show’s national tour.

A dozen activists protested animal testing outside the show.

“They’re sensationalists. I don’t pay them much mind,” said Mr. Braden, the Human Society spokesman. “This is family fun.”

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