Wag-A-Thon: Pet Event for Hoofers, Woofers

Rick VanderKnyff is a member of the Times Orange County Edition staff.

Most running or walking events are sponsored by athletic-shoe makers, health-food companies and the like. But one coming up Saturday in Dana Point counts among its backers a major pet-food manufacturer, an upscale kennel and a business called Flea Experts.

It's the second edition of the Wag-A-Thon, a walking event for pets and their owners, which last year drew 600 human participants, about three-fourths of them with pets (dogs, mostly, but also a couple of pigs, some chickens and a parrot that rode on the back of a canine pal).

One might think that with all those dogs, there might be a few territorial disputes. But event organizer Mary Obenberger said such was not the case--in fact, she called it a "mini doggie-Woodstock." After the walk, she said, "they were all just laying around together, having a good time."

Star-gazers should be on the lookout for this year's celebrity guest, the star of TV's "Frazier." No, not Kelsey Grammer--Moose, the Jack Russell terrier that portrays Eddie.

The 2K and 4K walks are open to everyone, even those who don't own pets. All animals must be on leashes. Obenberger said she expects about 1,200 people this time, with an expanded menagerie. (She has been called by a couple of goat owners.)

Before the walk will be a random prize drawing, along with judged awards in such categories as best pet costume, best pet trick and at least one somewhat dubious category, "Owner/Pet Look-Alike."

Beneficiary and organizer of the event is a Dana Point group called, appropriately, ARF, which stands for Animal Rescue Foundation. All proceeds go to helping stray and homeless animals.

The Wag-A-Thon is part of this year's Festival of Whales. Also on the schedule is another offbeat event, the Lil' Whale Run on Sunday. This running event for children 12 and under is modeled after the Junior Carlsbad, which draws as many as 3,000 youngsters.

"It's really a sight to see," said Kelly Keegan about the Carlsbad event. Keegan is with Elite Racing, organizer of both the Junior Carlsbad and the new Dana Point event.

"We thought we could duplicate that success (of the Junior Carlsbad) in Orange County."

The event includes a "race" for children 2 and younger, the 25-yard Diaper Dash. For 3-year-olds, it's the 25-yard Toddler Trot. The 4-year-olds run a quarter-mile; ages 5 and 6 run a half mile, and kids 7 through 12 run a mile.

Everyone gets a T-shirt and a medal.

"The emphasis is not on competition but on participation," Keegan said. "It's a neat way to get kids into sports without that pressure of competing."

The event will be held at Doheny State Beach in Dana Point. Registration opens at 7 a.m., and the fee is $15. The running events begin at 8 a.m., with the oldest kids going first. The last event is at 10:15 a.m. Call (714) 548-4897 for information.

* What: Wag-A-Thon, 2K and 4K walks with pets.

* When: Saturday, Feb. 18. Registration is 8 a.m.; judging begins at 8:15 a.m., and the walk begins at 9 a.m.

* Where: Dana Point Harbor.

* Whereabouts: From the San Diego (5) Freeway, exit at Pacific Coast Highway and head north. Turn left at Dana Point Harbor Drive, then left on Island Drive, crossing the bridge. There are also shuttle stops near the event site; call for information.

* Wherewithal: $20 (includes T-shirt).

* Where to call: (714) 489-5945.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World