June 24, 2010 at 2:01 pm EDT | by David J. Hoffman
Dog day afternoon

Who let the dogs out?

Answer — it’s PETS-DC and all dogs feeling competitive and their handlers along with them are welcome to join in the 17th annual Pride of Pets dog show held to benefit the group, now in its 20th year to improve the health and well-being of people with HIV/AIDS and other disabling conditions and their companion pets.

The popular event, expected to draw 300 plus onlookers, is planned for Saturday at 3 in Dupont Circle. Rain date is Sunday.

PETS-DC executive director Chip Wells forecasts about 75 dogs in competitions ranging from best tail wagging to least obedient and from most glamorous to best costume.

Wells, from the beginning in 1990 the group’s volunteer head, expects “much fun, as usual,” including in the least obedient category which is “always very competitive,” he says, “not because it’s the most crowded but because the pets are so disobedient.” One year it was so competitive that a dog who peed on a judge’s leg still didn’t manage to take the dubious award.

Also calculated to provide laughs is the best mirror image event, a look-alike contest. “You’d be amazed at how many conglomerations of dogs and their handlers look alike,” he said.

Then there’s most mysterious heritage, where Wells says “you win by stumping the judges, and it’s for sure not your AKC Westminster dog show here.” One year, in fact, Wells recalls, one contestant dog “looked so much like a pot bellied pig rather than a dog that I had to verify by examination that it was actually a dog, and it was indeed one, but to this day I don’t have any idea what breed!”

In the most-glamorous category, past winners have been honored for their natural beauty while others portrayed characters and donned costumes. It’s a popular category so it’s broken up into small, medium and large divisions based on the dog’s size.

Other categories include most affectionate, terrific trick, best pairs and age ranges divided into best puppy and best senior dog. Participants are urged to pre-register their dogs by calling 202-234-7387 ext. 8 or visiting www.petsdc.org. Fees are $25 for unlimited entries for a single pet or $6 per individual class. But handler and pets can also register on the day of the event, where check-in begins at 2 p.m. and competitions start at 3.

“Our basic purpose is to cheer up people who are very ill and celebrate the human-animal bond,” says Wells, who works by day in veterinary services at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. About 60 volunteers work with the organization, which has an annual budget of about $65,000. Services are provided throughout the D.C. metro area.

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