A very special Dog Day of summer

KAREN BITNER
Hershey jumps the hurdle at the dog show.

Canines came in all shapes, sizes and attire to the Old Home Week Fun Dog Show at Jerome King Playground Thursday morning during Old Home Week. The contest drew 53 entries this year, according to event organizer Cora Crider. Dogs and their owner/handlers competed in categories such as largest, smallest, best dressed, most obedient, and-believe it or not-best kisser. Along the way a variety of breeds strutted, scampered, “sang,” performed tricks, modeled canine couture, and puckered up, winning the audience's hearts and a variety of prizes.

At intermission, Canine Officer Rony of the Greencastle Police Department and his human handler, Officer Keith Russell, wowed the crowd with Rony's ability to understand and obey commands. With the help of Officer Greg Pritchard, the canine officer also demonstrated his ability to apprehend a fugitive. Pritchard, wearing a bite suit that made him look a little like a camo-clad Goodyear tire man, appeared barely able to stand when Rony, on Russell's command, hurtled toward him and clamped down on the bite suit. At another command from Russell, the dog let go and maintained a guard position. Russell thanked the Greencastle Lioness club for providing the $1400 “Canine Guardian” bite suit, which he called a wonderful training tool. “It's top-of the line stuff,” he said.

Russell  also praised community donors for providing for Rony's and his training, noting that the training alone cost around $12,250. He explained that Rony came from a long line of police dogs born and trained in Czechoslovakia.  “I had to learn two languages to work with him,” Russell said. “I had to learn Dog, and I had to learn Czech.” He laughed, adding, “Both were hard.”

In addition to apprehending suspects, Russell noted that Rony can also track lost persons such as small children and Alzheimer's patients, even through deep snow, for distances up to 4 miles. Rony can also sniff out narcotics, his handler explained. “He's a protective dog for me, too, ” Russell stated, adding that the dog is trained to protect him from would-be attackers.

 And Rony can also perform duties that are very dangerous for human officers, Russell said, explaining,  “If I'm on patrol and find an open door I can command him to go inside and search, instead of going in myself.” Due to the sometimes-hazardous nature of his duties, Rony recently received a bullet-resistant vest, paid for by the community in a drive spreadheaded by Peggy McQuitty.

Russell noted that he and Rony spend 16 hours a month on maintaining their training at a facility near Harrisburg. Community members interested in helping pay for Rony's upkeep can contribute to the “Rony Fund” at Orrstown Bank, he said.

Despite the police presence, one furry interloper did attempt to disrupt the event by entering in the canine contests. The interloper, who was eventually revealed to be none other than Russ Clever in a bear suit, was chased from the ring and the contests resumed.

Winner  in the Most Unusual category was Ginger, first place,  accompanied by Carolle Patrick,  Buster Bionicle, second place, accompanied by Fred Yelton, and Baxter, third place, accompanied by Drew and Owen Leydig.

In the Owner Look-Alike Contest, Buddy Bear  and handler Gordon Foose took first place, Hershey and handler Dotti Zimmerman took second, and Domino and Dotti Zimmerman took third place.

Roscoe, accompanied by Fred Young, sounded off as first place Best Vocalist; while second place honors went to Bailey, accompanied by Mary Ann Emberson. The duo of Bailey and handler Emberson also won for Best Junior Handler age 14 and under. Third place in the vocal category went to Libby, accompanied by Karen Showalter.

First-place Best-Dressed  Contest honors went to Maggie, accompanied by Linda Faith. Dakato, accompanied by Carol Morgan, placed second in the category,  and Hanna, accompanied by Rogue Bitner, placed third.

Best Trick Contest first place went to Hershey, accompanied by Dotti Zimmerman; with Riley, accompanied by Laurel Hellane, taking second place, and  Zoe, accompanied by Lois Baer, in third.

Duchess, accompanied by Stephanie Kenney, was honored as the Smallest dog, followed by Zoe, accompanied  by Lois Baer, and Jackson, accompanied by Morgan Wallech.

Largest Dog category was won by Spencer, accompanied by Austin Stoler. Spencer also won Best of Show.

Police Dog Rony, accompanied by Officer Keith Russell of the Greencastle Police, won first in the Most Obedient dog category, followed by Domino, accompanied by Dotti Zimmerman, and Simon, accompanied by Gavin Strait.

Isabella, accompanied by Robin Straley, was declared Best Kisser, with Jackson, accompanied by Morgan Wallech, taking second and Chrissy, accompanied by Brayden Burgener, placing third.

Prettiest/handsomest first place  went to Bridgette, accompanied by April Bair; Carter, accompanied by Cody Carbaugh, second place, and Cooper, accompanied by Ginny Hengst, third.

Come to think of it, people really do start to look like their dogs, as Buddy Bear and Gordon Foose show.