K-9 Keg Pull pulls in “treats” for local animal rescue, PARTNERS! Canines

Rachel Greenland, Reporter

Waiting patiently at the starting line, Oreo the border collie looked down the track to a pile of hay awaiting his crash.

Oreo dressed in a new track suit that his owner, Sean Woo, gave him for his fourth birthday, just a day before the Blowing Rock Winterfest’s K-9 Keg Pull.

This race looks different for each weight class, but whether the dogs are pulling an empty beer can, jug or keg, the goal remains the same: make it across the finish line with the fastest time.

“He follows me a lot, so I hope he will stay following me during the race,” Woo said.

Cristian Garnier
Blowing Rock’s Winterfest K-9 Keg Pull is event used to raise money for PARTNERS! Canines, animal rescue service. The program raised $3,000 this year with 82 dogs total in participation.

The keg pull got its start five years ago when Eva Hyatt, executive director of PARTNERS! Canines, an animal rescue service, walked into Lynn Smith’s High Country Taproom and Dog Bar. The two bonded over a mutual love for dogs and fostered the beginnings of a race to support the ones that need homes.

This year, 82 dogs participated in the race, and $3,000 was raised for PARTNERS! Canines, which Hyatt said was enough to finance two biweekly rescue dog transports.

“Every year it breaks the record,” Smith said.

Though some dogs like Oreo were new to the keg pull, others were returning to claim their prize. Paulette and Keith Allen brought their small-weight class dog Percy back for a second try after he ran off course to chase a little boy last year.

“Hopefully, this year he’ll stay on track,” Paulette Allen said. 

PARTNERS! Canines receives 50% of the registration fees and 100% of the profits from the live auction and retail sales, Smith said.

Hyatt, who is also a marketing professor at App State, said the K-9 Keg Pull is one of the rescue service’s largest fundraisers of the year. 

“As the K-9 Keg Pull gets bigger each year as an integral part of the Blowing Rock Winterfest, more and more of the community learns about the homeless dog situation in NC and the need to spay/neuter their pets and always adopt rather than shop for pets,” Hyatt wrote in an email.

No dogs were in need of adoption this year, but one pit bull found her “forever home” last year.

“Last year, we had a pit bull that needed a home, and she was wearing a specific color vest,” Smith said. “She was talked about and she was sashayed down the runway.”

Dogs and owners also attended to cheer on their friends. Cindy Rywak and her 3-year-old old English sheepdog, Elle, have come to Winterfest several times but have never raced in the keg pull.

“I think it is a great thing for dogs,” Rywak said. “(Elle) would probably just sit down.”

Bo Lenay’s 1-year-old puppy, Nini, was also watching from the sidelines, but from a pink carriage to keep her paws out of the snow.

“It’s definitely a unique event just for the fact that it’s a large gathering of dogs pulling all different sizes of empty cans and kegs,” Smith said. “I think that it’s just unique, that in itself.”