Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors Show organizers announce that six finalists have been chosen from the large group of canines who applied to compete in this year’s World Championship Boatyard Dog Trials. The trials will take place on Sunday, Aug. 14, during the ninth annual Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors Show, which runs August 12-14 at Harbor Park in Rockland.

A perennial crowd favorite (who doesn’t love watching people act silly with their pets?), the World Championship Boatyard Dog Trials is a zany head-to-paw “competition” among the cream of the canine crops. The field of competing dogs is pre-selected, and organizers would like to emphasize that due to liability reasons only those dogs will be allowed onto show grounds. They ask that all other pets be left at home to avoid disappointment.

After a kick-off parade on show grounds that will include the contestants, Shriners in go karts, Puffins from Project Puffin, the lively Maine Squeeze accordion ensemble, and the newly crowned Maine Sea Goddess, the trials themselves will begin at 10:30 a.m. in the inner harbor. The contest is equal parts entertainment, silliness, and good, wet fun. Tickets (good all day and for the entire show) are $12; those under 12 get in free.

Competing dogs (and their people) will be held to uncompromising standards that focus on each dog’s combination of style and pizzazz. The trials consist of three primary events: first, the “Dockside Obstacle Course,” in which dog and handler negotiate a maze of lobster traps, piles of rope, and other funky dockside paraphernalia; second, the “Dinghy Hop,” in which dog and handler scramble in and out of a very tippy dinghy that’s tethered to a float; and third, the “Freestyle” segment, during which each dog (and their person) shows off his or her special talents….No holds are barred for this segment, but a rubber duck must be included in the performance. To level the playing field somewhat, there is a total time limit of eight minutes per entrant.

There are but four simple rules:

Rule 1: Either dog or handler must finish contest completely soaked.

Rule 2: Cheating is not only tolerated but encouraged.

Rule 3: The freestyle event must incorporate a rubber duck.

Rule 4: There are no further rules.

Coal, a black lab and German Shepard from West Wardsboro, Vt.

Coal is a hearing dog and exercise coach for his human Nic who competes in marathons and triathlons around the country. One-year-old Coal was trained at the Shirley Prison for Men in Massachusetts, and is one of their first three graduates in a National Education for Assistance Dog Services (NEADS) program. When not enforcing the daily two-hour-long workout schedule, Coal is busy breaking the rules. An example is the recent theft of a cooked lobster from the kitchen sink for a well-deserved dinner treat.

Fenway, a black lab flycatcher from Rockland

Fenway is a dog of many interests. She knows Kung-Fu, catches flies like Mr. Miyagi in the original “Karate Kid,” is a speedy runner, a smooth dancer, and, somewhat surprisingly, a Red Sox groupie. Fenway has a penchant for skunks, but makes up for smelly shenanigans by diligently testing toys and treats at the Loyal Biscuit Company where she is “employed” as part-time manager.

Grace O’Malley, a golden retriever and pirate queen from Camden

Grace served as an alternate last year, but returns this year with her Picaroon/handler as a contestant ready to show off her “grace,” style, and a knack for finding treasure. She is expert at walking the plank and practices piratical acts of intimidation, such as threatening to send folks off to Davy Jones’s locker.

Lyla, a sweet yellow Lab from Great Diamond Island

A fantastic retriever and the official “stern dog” on her owner’s 36-foot Novi Crustacean Queen, Lyla will reportedly jump off any boat, dock, or pier year round to retrieve, well, just about anything. She and her handler, 11-year old Scout Tucker, cooked up a unique stunt last year and placed second. They are ready to return and will bring some new zaniness to their performance, so watch out!

Pixel, a sparky Chihuahua from Gorham

Pixel describes himself as 11 pounds of muscles, brains, and bedsprings. Pixel’s mom rescued him from a shelter in Tennessee and nursed him back to health, after finding him on Despite a rough start, Pixel has found his niche in Maine—going from an inland dog to one that’s in love with being on the water. He graduated with his Canine Good Citizen certificate and is hoping for an internship in a local nursing home where he can be read to and generally adored.

Viva, an Icelandic Sheepdog from Minnesota

A descendent of the ancient, noble, and enthusiastic Nordic spitz dogs that crossed the Atlantic in Viking longboats more than a millennium ago, Viva will be making her own journey from the Midwest to Maine to compete in the trials. She and Kathryn Ananda-Owens—her handler, first mate, and chauffer (and a classically trained pianist)—say that they have a surprise in store for us.


Oskar, a black standard poodle from Columbus, Ohio

Oskar enjoys rusticating in Cushing during the summer months. He loves the boats and the water, as long as his feet touch something solid. If he gets to compete, Oskar promises to dazzle the crowd while getting soaking wet, and to create some havoc in the process.

For those who are wondering, Defending World Champion Pancho Villa has stepped aside after holding the title for two consecutive years. He said he wants to allow another dog a chance at the coveted “Pup Cup” perpetual trophy.

Every dog is a “winner” at the trials (goody bags for all!), but the 2011 World Champion will be featured in Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors magazine, since the popular Boatyard Dog column is where all this silly fun got its start. The champ also keeps the cherished revolving “Pup Cup” trophy for one year.

The Bark magazine is the media sponsor for the event; supporting sponsors Sea Bags, of Portland, and The Loyal Biscuit Co., of Rockland, will again provide the goody bags to all contestants.

This year’s judges will be: Dr. Kate Pierce of Pen Bay Veterinary Associates in Rockport; Lucinda Lang, spaniel aficionado; Gregg Boersma of The Bark magazine; and Gretchen Piston Ogden, managing editor of Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors magazine. It is traditional for the judges to receive “voting incentives” from the participants; this year’s judges are encouraging creativity in this area! (In other words, bribes are not only allowed, they are encouraged.)

The trials will be spiced up by emcees Mike Joyce and Alan Sprague, co-hosts of WERU-FM’s call-in show “Boattalk” (89.9 FM and Mike is a self-employed boatbuilder and sailor, has never met a dog he didn’t like, and isn’t afraid to get wet. Alan is also a self-employed boatbuilder doing work in the Mount Desert Island area. He and his wife currently have three cats; all of whom declined (on principle) the offer to attend the Boatyard Dog Trials this year. The emcees would like to note that they too are open to receiving the aforementioned bribes.

The “People’s Choice” Wagon on show grounds will once again allow show attendees to “vote” for their favorite canine contender. Monetary votes can be cast throughout the weekend, with $1 equaling one vote. All proceeds will benefit local animal shelters.