Place for pups to bond with owners

Mutt Strutt showcases pets, their humans participating in several events, games that focused on dogs



Wilber, a corgi, and his owner Chris Hastings participate in the peanut butter spoon competition during the Mutt Strutt on Saturday afternoon at Reaney Park. The objective was to lick the spoon clean before the other dogs.


The 10th annual Mutt Strutt raised over $2800 for Pooch Park and the Whitman County Humane Society through games and contests designed for dogs and their humans to enjoy at Reaney Park on Saturday.

“The Mutt Strutt is really important because there are so many dog owners in Pullman, and it really meshes the college with the town to come together for a singular cause,” said Alix Shackelford, groomer at Amber’s Grooming Salon and owner of Alphonse the poodle. “Plus seeing dogs in costumes is always the cutest thing ever.”

Owners could purchase tickets for their dogs to compete in several contests judging talent, wits and appearance. The humans received prizes for their dogs’ successes, which were sponsored by companies like Pets are People Too and Tail Waggin’ Adventures. All dogs were encouraged to participate, even without any training.

Harley, a pug, practices restraint during the treat balancing obedience competition at the Mutt Strutt.

“A lot of people don’t realize just how good their dog is until they give their dog a chance to show you what they can do,” said Brian Clark, Pooch Park grounds manager and volunteer at the Mutt Strutt.

The first competition of the afternoon was musical chairs, during which the dogs and their owners walked around a circle of brightly colored plates. They instructed their dogs to sit when the music stopped. The dogs closest to the plates who sat the quickest were safe — they had to be accurate and speedy. In a close competition, Alphonse was victorious.

“I’m super proud of him,” Shackelford said. “What momma wouldn’t be proud of their baby? Alphonse usually takes his own time and pace, but today we were working together. He listened, he wasn’t distracted and we both had so much fun. I’m shocked, but it’s a good shock.”

Alphonse himself was pretty excited about the win, and his tail wag said it was a great victory.

The dogs were then judged on their smiles, a difficult task for the judges. While deciding, one even muttered, “Oh, gosh, I should not have been a judge.”

In the end, a high-spirited pup named Teki-Inito won.

The next contest was one of the most popular, as it provided the dogs with free food: the doggy bob. Thirteen of the dogs in attendance raced to slurp hot dogs from bowls of water. The winner was a fluffy pup named Danika, whose owners were not surprised at all by her win. Danika regularly inhales her meals at home and steals her brother Luke’s food as well, her owner said.

Dogs then had the opportunity to show their best tricks for 30 seconds to the crowd that had amassed.

Some were motivated by treats, others by toys and some simply by love. The winner Jinx was motivated by her human Isabella Potts-Moore.

Several vendors spoke with owners and attendees. Some even offered dogs free treats. The Mutt Strutt gave these local vendors the chance to make connections with Pullman dog lovers, Clark said.

After a break from the games, dogs and their owners got to work together at the peanut butter spoons contest. The owners held the handle of the spoons in their mouths and the dogs raced to lick the sticky substance as quickly as they could.

The winner was a small dog named Vino, and his owner Sasha Barnett was “very proud of [her] little man.”

The following event was a “tense moment for the dogs,” Clark said. Only a few dogs competed in the treat-balancing contest, but the tension was still palpable. Harley the pug came away victorious, but her owners Jacob Hillard and Bailey Page said they would have been proud of her regardless.

Hillard and Page adopted Harley from Craigslist two years ago at age 7 and kept her from being surrendered to a shelter. They both love the Mutt Strutt because they support the cause.

“We’re both huge advocates of adopt, don’t shop,” Hillard said. “Animal overpopulation is a human problem. There are so many living dogs that need loving homes.”

The final and possibly cutest competition of the festival was the costume contest. Dogs big and small, in costumes intricate and simple, paraded around the judges.

Koa, a corgi, attends Mutt Strutt as a super hero on Saturday in Reaney Park.

Jenny Newburger said she has attended the Mutt Strutt for all 10 years with her troop of basset hounds. Newburger breeds bassets and has 12 as pets at the moment. She brought five dressed in homespun Wizard of Oz costumes this year.

Merida dressed as the  Cowardly Lion, Belle a flying monkey, PJ was the Wicked Witch of the West, Lilo was the Scarecrow and Stitch was the Tin Man.

Hey Hey, a 7-week-old piglet, was Dorothy.

The band of bassets was dressed as crayons last year. The year before they were My Little Ponies. And each year the pack has grown.

“PJ came here in Belle’s belly last year,” Newburger said about one of the bassets. “Belle was like one week away from having puppies last year.”

The Mutt Strutt has become an annual tradition for more casual dog owners as well. Athena Miller and her mother Elouise Montes De Oca have brought Junior, a Rottweiler rescue from the Whitman County Humane Society, for three consecutive years.

This year, the rain was no deterrent for Miller, Montes De Oca and Junior in his lion costume.

“I don’t even feel cold,” Montes De Oca said. “Chasing the dogs keeps you warm.”

Miller said she wishes there were more dog gatherings every year. She brings Junior to an annual dog pool party in Moscow called Howling at Hamilton. She said that, between the swim event and the Mutt Strutt, the pair have made many human and canine connections. Junior recognized Newburger’s basset hounds.

“He’s known these boys and girls for two years,” Miller said, “Back when they were My Little Ponies.”

Miller said she was proud of Junior for being runner-up in the peanut butter spoon contest and third runner-up in the costume contest.

“He loves dogs and he doesn’t have problems with the other animals.” Miller said. “He’s social, and if anything he just scares them with his lion costume.”

Miller said she and Junior will be attending another doggy gathering at Zelda’s Pet Grooming later this fall.

“Most other fundraisers for humane societies don’t involve the animals,” Clark said. “There are auctions and dinners, which are fantastic, but the Mutt Strutt is unique in the sense that it actually involves the animals themselves. It raises money for the [Whitman County] Humane Society by just letting some dogs have fun.”