The Star Democrat

ST. MICHAELS, Md. (AP) — More than 18 years ago, John and Bonnie Booth’s Jack Russell terrier, Freddie, wasn’t allowed to run in Jack Russell races held concurrently with the Virginia Gold Cup horse race.

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That’s when the couple, who both own Five Gables Inn in St. Michaels, decided to start their own dog races — the Jack Russell Races, John Booth said. The races this year were held Oct. 20 at the Inn at Perry Cabin in St. Michaels.

“The first year we probably had 25 people and nobody knew about it, but I think this year we probably had a couple hundred,” John Booth said after the 18th annual Jack Russell Races. “A lot of participation; a lot of watchers. It’s a fun event in town … and we love it.”

Folks brought their pooches, not limited to Jack Russell terriers, to the property in front of the Inn at Perry Cabin and signed them up to race.

Categories for the races ranged from beginners to experts, and included not just Jack Russell terriers, but also a “Dachshund Dash” and an “I’ve always wanted to be a Jack Russell, but I’m not” category.

The dogs were lined up at the starting gate kennels and released. Some chased after the piece of fur, which was attached to a retractable line, all the way to a little hole in hay bales that served as the finish line. Some of the dogs, however, were more focused on playing with and sniffing the other dogs, or just lying down in the grass and catching some sun.

After the regular races, there was an obstacle course segment, where the dogs jumped over hurdles in and raced in the same fashion as the normal heats.

“It’s meant to be real casual. Any dog can run. We didn’t want it to be professional like they do at the horse shows. We want it to be as much fun for the crowd as it is for the dogs,” Bonnie Booth said.

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Bonnie Booth said that she and John were lucky to get all the participation in the races they had this year. Multiple restaurants in town gave away dinner prizes and gift cards, and the Inn at Perry Cabin, aside from hosting the races and donating the proceeds of food and drink sales, gave away a stay at the inn and dinner prizes. All prizes were given away through a raffle.

This year, the races raised money for the food pantry in St. Michaels and Pet Pantries. The Booths estimated that the race raises about $2,500 to $3,000 each year.

Vice President of Pet Pantries Mary Kramer said she’s participated in the races the last four years with her dachshunds, Minnie and Frankie, but this is the first year that Pet Pantries benefits from the races, which she said she’s thrilled about.

“We (Pet Pantries) worked very hard to keep the pantries of Talbot, Caroline and Dorchester filled, and these pantries cater to the general public of people who are having difficult financial situations and they can resort to these pantries to get food for their animals in hopes that it prevents them from surrendering them to the humane societies,” Kramer said.

Last year, Kramer said Pet Pantries collected about 7,000 pounds of pet food, mostly through school food drives.

However, the timing of the Jack Russell Races is good for Pet Pantries, Kramer said, as the money the organization will get will help it through the winter.

“In the winter months, people are really focused on Christmas and more people-sensitive issues, with gifts for children, and the focus is not really so much on pets,” Kramer said.

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(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)