By Pamela Dozois

Contributing Writer

Congeniality, camaraderie and canine competition filled the ninth annual community Bark for Books dog racing event on the last Saturday in June at Ferrini Park in Los Alamos.

About 300 people attended throughout the day, some accompanied by canine companions both large and small. Proceeds from the event benefit the Los Alamos Public Library.

The event was begun about 10 years ago as the Los Alamos Dog Races by local residents Wendy Wergeles, Madeleine Jex and Dennis Keane after a discussion of how to draw more visitors to the little town. Keane suggested they organize a dog race, as they had in his hometown of Killarney, Ireland.

“The first events were held at the county park on Centennial,” said Wergeles. “We erected a fence to accommodate the dog racing and had a barbecue. The event eventually grew so big we decided to move it to Ferrini Park. We knew we wanted the money we raised to benefit a good cause. At first the profits went to the Pony Club in Santa Maria, but then we decided to support the newly established local library some years ago and have been doing so ever since.”

The grand prize winner, Tule, is congratulated by his owner Madeleine Jex and her grandson, Will Hughes.

Festivities included dog tricks, dogs in costume, and a dog-kissing contest. Martha, with owner Jay Brenneman, won Best Costume for her bumblebee outfit. Luna Baduna, a black Labrador-Queensland heeler with her owner Victor Gallegos, won the Best Tricks division with Luna’s 1-2 punch of Downward Dog Yoga and an amazing Wild West Shootout combo.

Next came a demonstration by Deputy Mike McNeil of the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Canine Division and his police dog, Magnum, a 6 ½ year-old German Shepherd. Magnum has been working as a police dog for five years after training at the Inglis Police Dog Academy in Ventura.

Magnum has performed 15 “finds” in his career, McNeil said. When he corners a suspect, McNeil added, Magnum barks loudly as if to say, “Dad, I found something, come and see.” He then holds the position, basically saying to the perpetrator, “I found you, and I own you, and it’s your decision what you do next.”

Genete Bowen and her dog Gretta then sang “America the Beautiful” together, to the delight of the audience.

Numerous raffle prizes were given out throughout the afternoon, thanks to dozens of sponsors.

Judges for the various events included 3rd District county Supervisor Joan Hartmann, Solvang City Manager Brad Vidro, and Lyla Oyakawa.

Thirty-six dogs entered the races, with the first races leading up the finals.

Winners were Ruger, a Mastiff mix with owner Jillian Ostrove, in the first race; Chica, a Chihuahua with owner Melissa Moore, in the second; Kippy, a border collie with owner Claycen Cooper in the third; and Tule, a Labrador with his owner Madeleine Jex. In the fourth.

Those four winners competed in the fifth and final race for the grand prize. Tule was the winner of a huge gift basket from Lemos Feed and Pet Supply.

Local authors Petrine Mitchum, R. Lawson Gamble and Barbara Hodges spoke about their books and were on hand to sell and sign them.

“That was so much fun – yet again! Thanks for all the hard work, everyone. Can’t wait for next year. Victor and Luna promise to add a few new highlights to their routine – determined to defend their title in the Best Tricks division at Bark for Books next year,” said Catherine Gallegos.

“As with every event this size, it takes a community to come together to make it happen. I would like to thank all the volunteers for their time and effort, all the vendors, and all the dogs and owners who made this event a great success,” Wergeles said.