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As the season wanes, Summerset hosts one last dog day

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By AJ Vicens

The competitors were keyed up. It didn't matter that the grass was wet, the weather was a bit cool, or the turf was chewed up from Summerset's car show the day before.

No, the competitors were stoked — those with four legs as well as those with two — at Summerset's fifth annual Fun Day for Dogs on Sept. 14 at Clement Park.

The grassy area north of the skate park and south of the Columbine Library was reserved for dogs and their owners. It featured booths offering products that help rid your property of dog doo, and others offering grooming tools and tips. Vendors sold smart-casual canine apparel, and several groups were on hand to jump-start pet adoptions.

Meanwhile, the Colorado Disc Dogs tournament featured pups flying to and fro as they displayed impressive talents for catching Frisbees thrown by loving owners.

Debbie Grummer, secretary of the Foothills Foundation and chair of the Fun Day for Dogs, said the idea for the event actually was a result of complaints about too many dogs on the grounds at Summerset.

"We thought, 'Why not do a dog event?' " Grummer said, adding that it helps to keep the canines busy and in one area.

The first event had just four or five vendors, a Colorado Disc Dogs demonstration, and some hot dogs for the canine agility-course competitors. This year the event featured 26 vendors, two obstacle courses courtesy of Rocky Mountain Agility, the Colorado Disc Dogs competition and demonstration, and a regional "Flyball" tournament.

Flyball is a dog relay sport in which teams of four dogs of all types jump four hurdles, hit a spring-loaded box that shoots out a tennis ball, take the ball back over the hurdles and cross the finish line. A dog must finish in less than 24 seconds to score points.

Summerset's Fun Day for Dogs Flyball event drew teams from Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico. Many other tournaments last several days, but Sept. 14 was the only day for the Summerset event.

"This is my passion," said Walter Marshall of Laramie, Wyo. Marshall traveled to the Flyball tournament to help teams as a handler and to pitch in any way he could. He has a dog, but his pup is not quite up to competition speed. Marshall discovered the sport while looking for fun things to do with his dog.

"I got a puppy, and wanted to expand his horizons as well as mine," Marshall said. He soon met others as passionate about dogs and Flyball as he was, and started pitching in with events and other dog teams. "I was hooked. This is my social group now, the dogs and their handlers."

His wife back in Wyoming doesn't get it. She thinks he's crazy, Marshall said.

"My wife says I go to the tournaments to flirt with the dogs and pet the handlers," he said with a chuckle.

Dave Ginnow, a large man with a full white beard, dark prescription sunglasses and a black felt cowboy hat, brought his toy fox terrier Lady from Westminster to compete. Lady entered her first tournament in 2003 in Boulder City, Nev., and has competed at a high level since. Lady had the chance to take the No. 1 spot in the North American Flyball Association regional rankings with a strong showing Sept. 14.

Grinnow got into the sport after a friend told him Lady might compete well.

"She's tennis-ball crazy," Ginnow said. "She takes a tennis ball to bed.

"We don't win money; we pay money," he said. "But our dogs enjoy it."

Lady — who can't weigh more than 10 pounds soaking wet — looked like she was about to fall asleep in Grinnow's arms. But when the competition began, she came to life. Lady smoked her competitor to the spring-loaded box, took the ball in her mouth and sprinted back into Grinnow's arms. The day was also enjoyable for the more mellow variety of dogs and owners.

"We came yesterday and decided to come back and check it out today," said Andrea Bauer, who brought her dog Mika. "I'm looking at getting her a brother or sister."

Bauer added that she thinks it's "absolutely great" that Summerset would feature a day of events just for dogs. Bauer said Mika seemed to get a kick out of the other dogs running all over the place and flying through the air.

"She could care less about catching something," Bauer said. "But she loves to watch the other dogs do it."

Contact AJ Vicens at aj@evergreenco.com, and check www.columbinecourier.com for updates and breaking news.