Ruff competition: UMN Dog Olympics set for this weekend

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The most popular event at last year's first-ever UMN Dog Olympics? That's easy.

"The 'Obstacle Course Challenge' was by far the most popular last year ... " said Nicole Spooner, the student behind the event. "Contestants had to navigate with their dogs through obstacles like jumps, tunnels, bridges and weave poles. We had so many dogs enter that we ended up having to divide the class into two based on dog size."

Now Spooner – and the rest of the University of Minnesota's American Veterinary Medical Association Student Chapter – is one day away from holding a second annual Dog Olympics. The 29-year-old, third-year veterinary student at the U of M's College of Veterinary Medicine came up with the idea last year as a way to get people more involved, on a number of levels.

"The school did not [at the time] hold any events that invited the public on to the veterinary school campus," she told BringMeTheNews, "so I thought this would be a great opportunity for people to meet their animal's doctors outside the exam rooms."

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She also wanted to do something "that engaged and educated the public about veterinary medicine, helped build public relations with the veterinary school, and promoted the human-animal bond by giving people a fun activity to do with their dogs."

So after a successful inaugural Olympic games, she and the organization are back with a second, inclusive event, set for this Saturday. A $10 ticket – purchasable online before the event, or at the door day-of – allows an owner to register their canine in as many games and events as they like that morning. If a pup doesn't want to participate, they can simply spectate and hang out, too.

All proceeds will be given to the St. Paul Police K-9 Foundation.

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About 250 people showed up at the inaugural games – Spooner said she's expecting much more this year. The event features a number Olympic events that dogs can participate in – and win prizes for. There are athletic events, like"Musical Sit" (similar to musical chairs) and a relay race for dogs and their owner; plus creative competitions like best canine singing voice and obedience training. There's even a podium.

There will also be activity booths, demonstrations (including the Minnesota Disc Dog Club and the St. Paul K-9 police unit) and more.

Here is a full list of events plus descriptions, and here is the day's schedule.

The money all goes to a charity too, one the students at the school picked themselves: The St. Paul Police K-9 Foundation, a nonprofit that's independent of the city's police department, but provides financial support for the K-9 unit.

"We treat all of the police dogs at our Veterinary Medical Center on campus, and students wanted to support the team after the death of one of their heroic dogs, Kody, last February," Spooner said. "One hundred percent of the ticket sales from the Dog Olympics goes to their fund to provide the best medical care for these hard-working dogs that put their own lives at risk to keep us safe."

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Kody died while serving a warrant in early 2013. The man officers were attempting to arrest grabbed Kody and stabbed him. He died on the way to the animal hospital. He'd served with the police department since 2005.

The St. Paul Police Department says it is the second-oldest police canine organization in the U.S., and acknowledges the assistance the K-9 Foundation provides.

Spooner hopes the UMN Dog Olympics can continue helping well into the future.

"I am hoping this will be an event that will continue on after I graduate and grow in size every year," she said.

The 2014 games begin Saturday at 9:30 a.m. at the university's Leatherdale Equine Center. For more information, check out the Dog Olympics website.

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