Runners high-tail it at Spooner Lake
SPOONER LAKE — Maybe you can teach old dogs new tricks.
Handlers of dogs of every breed and age group lined up Sunday next to Spooner Lake with leashes in hand and one thing in mind — to celebrate the canine for a good cause.
The eighth annual Tahoe Trails & Tails benefits the Yerington Animal Protection Society.
My first lesson in dog etiquette with Bailey, a 10-year-old black Labrador on loan to me for the morning, was instilled in me before the run even started. She stopped suddenly on the way to the start line and it became apparent why I had stuffed two plastic bags in my back jeans pocket.
As the two- and four-legged runners prepared to take off, Bailey made it obvious by the tug of her leash that she wanted to do the 6.2-mile mountain run — not the mere 2-mile walk.
Hey, I’m just as competitive as the average athletic type — whether of the two- or four-legged variety. But the practical side of me said Bailey’s first organized social event should be taken in baby steps. I also got good advice from others who have walked in my shoes.
Michael and Virginia Werth of Sparks entered Frodo in the 2-mile route to acclimate the nearly 2-year-old Airedale to the event last year.
“He ran around the lake like a treadmill,” she said. “It helps to socialize them when they’re young.”
After a year at the dog park in Sparks, Werth mustered the gumption to sign up Frodo for the more ambitious route. Frodo did a sniff-down of Bailey and the dogs prepared for their respective jaunts.
Despite appearing to want to join a scene that resembled Tahoe’s version of Spain’s running of the bulls, Bailey was a sport. She waited until the dust cloud settled and merged behind the competitive types.
She quickly made friends as I knew she would. I grew up with black Labs, so I was well aware of their social, sweet temperament.
About a third of the way around the lake, I knew Bailey felt at home.
A cluster of dogs stopped at a clearing to jump in the lake. Bailey, being the water dog she is, mixed with the group like a native Hawaiian gathering with surfers.
This is certainly a dog event with a capital D.
Volunteer Ray Fuller — whose wife Carol runs YAPS — set up a water station halfway around the lake. Cups on the table were handed to adults. Large bowls were placed on the ground for dogs.
With chocolate Labrador, Cocoa, parked at a tree in the shade, Fuller explained that chalk was placed on stumps and roots so participants won’t trip. Some turns were marked with a large “No” in chalk to ensure people wouldn’t take the wrong turn. Fuller said some people and their dogs have been lost.
Bailey and I followed the pack, meandering through the aspens on the heels of a 10-year-old beagle named 2B. Mom Barb Young said she was pleased the dog still has what it takes to do a long walk, given she’s had reconstructive surgery in both knees. Young said she’s had surgery in both knees, too.
“Just look at her,” she said, pointing to the beagle like a proud parent.
Let it be known that dogs are very much a part of the American household. Three members of the Hayoshi family came up from Sacramento to watch their poodle Hershey’s short legs trot around Spooner.
“These events are important because this is how (dogs) learn to like people,” Janet McDonnell of South Lake Tahoe said, while relaxing after the walk with Gus, her golden retriever.
McDonnell talked her friend Susan Moore of Minden into bringing her Bernese mountain dog, Quigley, out to mix with people and dogs.
Five-month-old Quigley threw his massive paws over a 2-foot wall to get a closer look at Bailey.
Bailey said hello, then turned her attention to the small kiddie pool she was standing in line to wade in.
Even the raffle prizes and giveaways showed it was a dog’s life that afternoon. The list included a puppy blanket, dog brush, Kritter Kafe treats and doggie goodie basket. I picked up my participant’s goodie bag and promised Bailey I’d share an Overland Meats’ donation her vegetarian mom would pass on — a big juicy steak.
— Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org