Mud isn’t just for pigs

About 300 people enjoyed a day of fun completing a doggy obstacle course with their canines at a Muddy Puppy event at The Wedge Outdoor Park in Muldersdrift on the 31st of March.

Oneplan Pet Insurance hosts the Muddy Puppy, which is usually a 4 km fun run or walk offering loads of hindrances and many mud baths, according to their website. The pet insurance company was originally involved in obstacle racing for humans when they opened a training centre at a dog-friendly place, said Lesley Delport, owner of the Muddy Puppy. “We were setting up one day and we happened to see some woman going over an obstacle with her dog. So we decided to combine the two.”

And that is how the Muddy Puppy was born.        

This was the first time that Oneplan held the event at The Wedge, said Delport. The five-hour long affair started at 7 am, when people arrived with their pets. “We can have up to 600 dogs at an event in the morning,” Delport said. Dog-lovers pay a R160 entrance fee, while their dogs get to tag along for free, according to an ad on the Muddy Puppy website. A lot of regulars showed up to support, Delport said.

“I didn’t really expect to see so many people,” said Warrick Ward, owner of The Wedge. “It was actually a pleasant surprise. A lot of guys came out to have a look at it.”

He said he was also quite surprised that the dogs were so well-behaved and that no fights broke out.

“We’ve actually been very lucky,” said Delport. “We’ve had scuffles at the most.”

The organization created a color-coding system to keep the dogs from barring their teeth at each other. If a dog is temperamental or unsocial, they wear a red or yellow bandanna around their neck and all the other owners know to keep their pets at a safe distance, she said. “People respect that.” 

Search and Rescue participants were also at the event to ensure the safety of individuals as well as Man’s Best Friends. “We work with many guide dog associations,” said Delport.

The Muddy Puppy supports a different charity for each event, she said. These charities include SA Basset Adoptions, Cause 4 Paws, Wollies Animal Project, Yorkie Rescue South Africa and many more, according to their webpage.  

The dog charities are usually in charge of washing the dogs after the race and they charge R30 per canine, Delport said, with all the proceeds from the dog baths going to the chosen charities.

The charity supported at The Wedge was The Society for Animals in Distress, which is the single-largest professional welfare veterinary care provider in South Africa, according to their website. A percentage of the day’s profit also went to this charity. Each time someone entered the race, they indirectly helped save a domestic animal from a needy community.  

The race consisted of a 2 km walking trail with some mud slides, a muddy dam, a slip-and-slide and small obstacles for the dogs to jump over or crawl through. The dogs could also get splashed with colorful powders.

“I’ve never done anything like this with the dogs before and I didn’t know how they were going to react,” said Anna Huysamen, a participant.   

Her dogs refused to go over some of the obstacles, Huysamen said. They sometimes crawled underneath instead of jumping over, she said.

Onlookers could hear the chants of many owners encouraging their dogs to jump over hindrances, while their pets ignored them and maneuvered around the obstacles.

“My favorite part was when we had to walk through the muddy water,” Huysamen said. “I fell into the mud a few times, but I still had a great time. I know my dogs enjoyed it as much as I did.”

Every time dogs finished the race, they received medals and had their pictures taken.

“All in all, it was a very successful day,” said Ward, adding that he hopes to accommodate the Muddy Puppy again when it returns in the summer months. He also said he plans to have a better trail that stretches onto the rest of the property. Some of the participants had to complete the course three or four times, he said. “Next time we’ll have one trail where some can run 2 km and others can track over 5 or 6 km down one trail.”

There are no upcoming events planned, according to the Oneplan website. The Muddy Puppy is held about seven or eight times during the summer months, because of the mud obstacles, said Delport. They also host in Durban and Cape Town. For more information contact the Muddy Puppy coordinators at .    

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