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Washington Voices

An event for all pets, family

Thu., May 28, 2009

Pet Fest includes costumes, contests

An occasion billed as “Your Pet’s Social Event of the Year” is just around the corner. This weekend, thousands of pets and their owners will flock to the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center for the eighth annual Pet Fest.

For animal lovers, this is a celebration of all things wild and woolly, and cute and cuddly too. Where else can you see lizards on leashes, parrots on shoulders and cats in strollers? Not to mention humans wearing snakes around their necks like scaly necklaces.

Event manager Rachael Grafmiller said, “Pet Fest has grown in attendance every year. People love their animals and are always looking for things to do with them.”

With more than 70 vendors displaying their wares, pets and their people will have lots to discover. Savvy shoppers can browse among the latest in pet paraphernalia, from grooming tools to toys.

Shopping isn’t the only activity offered. Want a professional portrait of your pet? You can have it taken here. Is your doggie stressed and anxious? An animal massage therapist and Reiki practitioner will be on hand.

Pet Fest also features plenty of participatory events, such as a talent competition. Grafmiller recalled an unusual past contestant, “A chicken balanced upside down on a little girl’s head.” But her favorite act is Chia the singing Chihuahua. “She sang, ‘How Much is That Doggie in the Window?’ ” said Grafmiller. Performances like that tend to be memorable.

In addition, there’s a critter costume contest. “One year we had a wiener dog dressed as a hula girl and a Chihuahua dressed as a pirate,” Grafmiller said.

Those small dogs also offer two of the most popular Pet Fest events: Saturday’s Dachshund Rescue NW Wiener Dog Races and Sunday’s Taco Derby Chihuahua Races, sponsored by the Inland Empire Chihuahua Lovers.

“The Wiener Dog Races are our most popular event,” Grafmiller said. “We expect 40 to 60 dogs to race.” She said this will be the second year for the Chihuahua Races, and they’re quickly gaining in popularity. Last year’s winner, Nacho, owned by Anna Biggs, will be racing again to defend his title.

Grafmiller is particularly excited about a new event making its Pet Fest debut. Northwest Air Dogs is billed as “Washington’s own Northwest version of Big Air Dog Dock Jumping Competitions.” Dogs compete for distance, diving from a dock into a 25-foot pool. You don’t need a purebred or experienced jumper to compete; all you need is a dog and a ball or toy. “This is geared for ‘beginner’ dogs,” said Grafmiller. “The dock is lower and not as intimidating, but pro dogs are coming, too.” It’s also a good value. “There’s a $15 fee for all-day dock access,” Grafmiller said. People and pets who are new to the activity can practice as much as they want and then enter a competition.

Pet Fest is also the perfect place to add a new member to your family. Shelters from across the region bring dozens of adoptable dogs, cats, guinea pigs and rabbits. The worsening economy has led to an overflow of pets in need of good homes.

Dori Peck of the Spokane Humane Society said, “We’ll have lots of kittens available.” All of the pets the organization brings are spayed or neutered, immunized and microchipped. They even come with 30 days of free pet insurance.

As always, part of the proceeds from the event will go to the Spokane Humane Society. “We’ve partnered with Rachael (Grafmiller) since day one,” said Peck. She said the event boosts their adoption rate, in addition to being “just a ton of fun.”

Voices correspondent Cindy Hval can be reached at

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