Dog Mart

PETER CIHELKA/THE (FREDERICKSBURG) FREE LANCE-STAR

Ruby (left), a Chihuahua-dachshund mix, and Octavia frolic during the annual Dog Mart event Saturday. Both dogs were available for adoption through Fredericksburg-based SFC VA Animal Rescue.

FREDERICKSBURG — Spotsylvania County Deputy Kory Kelly’s K-9 partner sprang into action the moment he gave Dux the command to attack Spotsylvania Deputy K.C. Camp, who was clad in a heavily padded “bite suit” used for training.

“Run, Forrest, run!” someone in the crowd at Saturday's Fredericksburg Dog Mart shouted as the German shepherd sprinted to Camp and chomped down hard on his arm. Camp lifted Dux into the air as he swung his arm around, but the 5-year-old dog refused to let go until Kelly ordered him to.

People began peppering Kelly with questions following the demonstration, which was one of a number of activities during the annual event at the Izaak Walton League Fredericksburg-Rappahannock Chapter Park in Spotsylvania. Kelly had said that Dux is given all his commands in Dutch, and several people wanted to know what would happen if Camp had tried to do that.

“He’s probably going to start barking at him,” said Kelly, who is one of three K-9 trainers in Spotsylvania.

Several people wanted to know how long Dux, who was shot twice while pursuing a fleeing suspect in 2016, will continue working for the police department and what will happen after he retires. Kelley said that like most K-9s, Dux will probably shed his special bulletproof vest for good when he’s 8 to 10 years old.

“He’ll live with me when he retires,” Kelly said.

The German shepherd, along with an English pointer, a greyhound and a variety of mixed breeds including a Chihuahua-dachshund mix called a Chiweenie all had their day at the Dog Mart. The event traces its origins back to the 17th century when local settlers and the Pamunkey Indians began meeting along the Rappahannock River to trade. Back then, the Indians used dogs as pack animals, not pets, and would trade produce and furs for English hunting dogs raised by settlers.

“When the Indians ran into dogs that were specifically bred to hunt, they went nuts,” said Patti Goettler, who owns Greyt Heart Service Dogs in Fredericksburg and served as judge of the Dog Mart’s dog show. “A trapper could get a year’s worth of furs for one broken-down hunting dog.”

The event continued until the start of the Revolutionary War, and was restarted in 1927 by the Chamber of Commerce. It became an annual event held at Maury School until suspended during World War II. The Dog Mart returned again after the war, hosted by the Izaak Walton League. A delegation of 100 Pamunkey Indians from their reservation in nearby King William County led by Chief T.D. Cook, attended the 1949 Dog Mart, along with thousands of people from all over Virginia.

The Dog Mart moved to the Izaak Walton League Fredericksburg-Rappahannock Chapter Park in the 1970s, and has been held there ever since. This year’s event included a reenactment of Indians trading with colonists, along with a kids fishing tournament, barrel train rides, family dog show, exhibits related to dogs, vendors selling dog-related goods and several animal rescue groups who were hoping to find homes for some of the dogs they’d brought for the adoption showcase. 

Attendance has dwindled over the years, and the rain and thunder that began as Sharon Townley of Shady Grove Kennel, Hunting Preserve and Sporting Clays in Remington began demonstrating her prize-winning American pointer Kimber didn’t help Saturday, said Darrell Shultz, the Dog Mart manager and event coordinator. He’d expected about 1,000 people to show up, but figured that little more than 100 had arrived before the storm tapered off.

“You ask people if they’ve heard of the Fredericksburg Dog Mart, and older folks will say, ‘Yeah, I went when I was a kid,'"  Shultz said. “It’s a challenge every year. We try to add new things. This is the first time that we’ve had the demonstration with the K-9 and the padded suit.

One problem is that the chapter is a nonprofit and doesn’t have the funds to advertise other than through social media, chapter President Herbert Pritchett. Another is competition from the plethora of events taking place that weekend, including the State Fair of Virginia and numerous fall festivals.

Still, the Dog Mart did have a happy outcome for a pink sweater-clad Chiweenie named Ruby, who charmed Darra O’Byrne and her O’Donnough granddaughters, 9-year-old Lacey and 7-year-old Reese. They spotted the puppy when a member of the Squishy Face Crew, a new animal rescue group based in Fredericksburg, paraded the puppy around the ring during the adoption showcase. Afterward they walked back to the organization’s tent to get details about Ruby and find out how much it would cost to adopt her.

Catherine McLaughlin explained that all of the rescued dogs and cats that Squishy Face Crew fosters are vaccinated and either spayed or neutered before they’re available for adoption. They charge $250 for puppies and $150 for adult dogs.

“We’re getting it! We’re getting it!” Reese cried excitedly as O’Byrne pulled out her credit card to pay for Ruby.

The girls entered Ruby in the dog show held near the end of the Dog Mart. She didn’t win the hound class, but Goettler, who asked each owner what their dog’s favorite thing was, gave her a shoutout anyway.

“Ruby’s favorite thing is being adopted,” she said. “Let’s give a big round of applause for Ruby and her family.”

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