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The top dog

Cassie Pence
Special to the DailyCedric "Licky Boy" Snyder
ALL |

VAIL – There’s no denying the fact that people who love the mountains also love dogs. For some, these four-footed creatures are as essential as skiing and kayaking to the High Country lifestyle.This year at the Teva Mountain Games – a five-day event starting Wednesday that is filled with extreme-sport competitions and other events celebrating mountain culture – organizers are recognizing the dogs in mountain life with its Mountain Dog of the Year competition. The winning pooch, like Miss America, will serve as the official spokesdog of the Mountain Games for the next year, appearing in all sorts of advertising and promotional materials.”The scrappier the better,” Joel Heath of Untraditional Marketing said about the type of dog they’re looking for. Untraditional Marketing organizes the Mountain Games. “We’re not a pure-bred society by any means up here. We’re looking for a dog who has the personality of the mountain spirit.”Since the games began in 2001, Heath’s dog Savannah has acted as the unofficial mascot.”She’s decided she should retire,” Heath said. “We’re not looking to replace her, but she’s looking to pass the torch.”In addition to embodying the mountain spirit, the Mountain Dog of the Year should be able to tackle the mountains in any weather and on any terrain, from snowy peaks to rushing rivers, Heath said.Entries flooded the Vail Daily, and the newspaper, who is handling all the contest logistics for Untraditional Marketing, has narrowed it down to 10 final dogs. People can vote – as many times as humanly possible – for their favorite canine online at http://www.vaildaily.com. Here are profiles, in alphabetical order of course, of the top dogs in the running.

Cedric “Licky Boy” Snyder has logged about 1,400 river miles in five states and has summited 26 fourteeners with no assistance. He acts as first mate for owner Jeff Snyder, a local fly-fishing guide.”He rides on the boat and watches everyone fish,” Jeff said. “He gets a little impatient when people aren’t catching. He swims around the raft and is very nimble.”In addition to water sports, which Jeff points out is not typical for Jack Russell Terriers to enjoy, Cedric loves to mountain climb and camp.”He summited Mount Harvard and Mount Columbia in one day,” Jeff said. “It’s a big feat for a person and a large dog, let alone for a 13-pound small dog.”Jeff said that Cedric can swim, raft, hike and fetch with more ambition than dogs 10 times his size.

As a puppy, ChaCha spent her time hiking Berry Pickers trail in Vail and working on her Frisbee skills, which she later put to use as a competitor for 14 years. Swimming in alpine lakes is her favorite mountain activity, owner Rosalie Margolis wrote in her entry, but what’s most inspiring about ChaCha is her will to survive.”She developed osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer last May,” Rosalie wrote. “We found her limping after a day of hiking. Two days later her rear right leg was amputated, and with only a prayer, we started five rounds of chemotherapy. Six weeks later we hiked Wilder Gulch at Vail Pass with ChaCha leading the way.”This winter ChaCha continued activity, snowshoeing six miles a day. There is no sign of cancer, and Rosalie said she’s looking forward to even more mountain adventures.”She has taught us the meaning of heart and has shown us the joy of living for the day,” Rosalie said.

Fool’s mom, Cregan Ortner, may have rescued Fool from the pound, but Fool helped Cregan leave a dud of a boyfriend. “I got Fool right before the breakup, and I was such a fool for this guy, I thought maybe Fool could be the fool so I don’t have to be,” Cregan said.They’ve been best friends ever since, and Fool has truly learned the meaning of mountain life: Enjoying the scenery during the day and the bar at night.You can catch Fool hiking Vail Mountain once a week, and then he rides the Gondola down to Lionshead and pulls up a seat at Bart & Yeti’s for a cold one.”He’s a bar dog,” Cregan said. “I taught him to sit at a bar stool.”Fool is defending Teva Mountain Dog champion from last year’s agility competition, has saved two dogs life by donating blood and currently works in Cordillera as wildlife control at the equestrian center with Cregan.But Fool’s best trick? “He fetches my beer from the fridge,” Cregan said.

Gus, a Saint Bernard, can pull as much as 10 times his body weight (about 1,800 pounds), making him the perfect assistant in mountain fun such as sledding, owner Judy Holmes said.”When I’m snowshoeing, he comes with me,” Judy said. “Then in the summer, he hikes any terrain in any weather. He has unbelievable endurance, with short bursts of speed. He has a guide’s pace.”He’s strong, bold, friendly and respectful of wildlife, Judy said, all while investigating every inch of mountain terrain.

A Samoyed, Killian enjoys hiking and mingling with the local wildlife. She’s had more porcupine quills pulled from her than any other dog at White Pine Veterinary Clinic – about 300 needles. She’s been chased by moose, and like a coyote during the hunt, she hops and pounces when searching for mice.”At 12 years old, she still gets excited when the mention of hike arises,” owners Dave and Fiona Kennard write in their entry. “She knows the trails around our house and still wants to lead the way. If we go toward the stream, she’s bound and determined to get into it. She doesn’t swim but likes to wade and also put her face in it and blow bubbles with her nose.”Most people know her as the shop dog at Meadow Mountain Tires in Eagle-Vail.

Most tourists know Tillie as the shepherd who greets them on Bridge Street, but this mountain dog has much more on her resume than hospitality volunteer.Miss Tillie competes in agility contests throughout the West and is also the “demo dog” for the 2004-05 Teva Mountain Dog Challenge and the annual Humane Society Dog Rodeo.”On any given day, she can be seen hiking the North Trail, playing Frisbee at Stephens Park or helping her owner sell real estate,” wrote Cynthia Kruse in her contest entry. “A veteran of seven fourteeners, Miss Tillie will climb Mount Shavano and Tabeguache Peak in late July.”This fall Miss Tillie will complete her training as a Delta Dog to provide pet assistance therapy for patients at the Vail Valley Medical Center.”No cute, silly tricks for this dog,” writes Cynthia. “She represents the best of the best that life in the mountains has to offer.”

Montana, aka Monte, a Saint Bernard, loves to hike, swim and tag along with snowshowers or cross-country skiers.”He likes to socialize in Vail Village while sporting his brandy barrel and swim in his water bowl as evident by the dirty paws in his solo photo,” writes owner Gary Nielson of Gypsum. “He is a happy, gentle giant of a ‘bowzer’ with a wonderful personality.”Gary also said Monte would be proud to represent the Teva Mountain Games, even if he can’t fit in a kayak.

Munch’s owners Chris and Cholpon Lord were hiking in the mountains of Mongolia with young nephews when they first heard the tiny howl of Munch.”I told the little kids if they howl maybe the wolves would howl back,” Chris said. “We were walking along and the little kids are howling and all of a sudden I thought I heard something.”That something was Munch, only a couple of days old. Chris was surprised the wolves hadn’t gotten to him, he said, so after realizing Munch was abandoned, Chris and Cholpon brought him back to America. Munch is a pure Mongolian dog, Chris said, bred to protect sheep, little kids and old people from the wolves. Since it’s 35 below for about 6 months out of the year in Mongolia, the cold is no problem for Munch.”He loves to run up the mountains,” Chris said. “He loves jumping in the rivers. He chases birds, he loves the snow, and he’s strong as an ox.”

Sunny, half Akita and half Rottweiler, loves the challenge of keeping up with fast bikes, carving the turns of single track and blazing down steep mountain trails.”My husband and I like to mountain bike and Sunny loves the outdoors,” owner Pia Helmkamp said. “We started taking her on rides, and now she gets really mad if we don’t take her.”Pia said that besides Sunny’s love for adventure, she should be Mountain Dog of the Year because of her special personality. She was hit by a car and almost died but still tears through mountain activities without even a wince.”She has a very significant spirit that I have never seen in a dog before,” Pia said. “She’s just such a trooper. She never complains, never whines; she just deals with the pain.”Pia said people will know Sunny because she always greets with a smile and a wag of the tail.

Theo, a pug, may not swim well, but it doesn’t keep him away from the river. Geared up with a life vest, Theo tackles Class III rapids with owner Brenna Osterloh.”Theo is a great partner on the river,” Brenna writes. “He can spot the water line and let us know where to go. He barks when a rock is approaching to alert us to turn. Rafting with Theo’s size go together well – he never weighs down the boat.”Theo also hikes fourteeners and hold his own with the bigger pooches. Before moving to Colorado, Theo loved watching TV, but Brenna said he was easily converted from couch potato to outdoor enthusiast.Arts and Entertainment Editor Cassie Pence can be reached at 748-2938 or cpence@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado


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