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Many happy tales at Basset Hound Olympics

Sammy, 12, gives some kisses to her owner,

Sammy, 12, gives some kisses to her owner, Beth LaRusse, of Garden City. (Oct. 13, 2012) Credit: Newsday/ Karen Wiles Stabile

Past champion 6-year-old Dora anxiously waited at the starting line. Her feet were planted and her enormous brown eyes were focused on the finish line 10 meters away, where her family awaited her.

"On your mark, get set, go."

Dora, a white and tan basset hound, started to sprint, with her long ears flapping in the wind, and finished the race in about three seconds. But it wasn't fast enough to earn her a medal Saturday at the Basset Hound Olympics at Wantagh Park, the home of the annual competition.

Her owners, Dianne and Will Popa, of Dix Hills, were disappointed, but Dianne said her pup was still a winner "in our hearts."

But Dora wasn't done. In the next event, the 15-meter hurdles, she took first place and rested after the race with a medal around her neck, sandwiched between her proud owners.

Basset hounds and their owners gathered at the event, a fundraiser for the Tri-State Basset Hound Rescue -- which it has held annually for about a decade. The organization is a volunteer-run nonprofit that shelters the dogs and tries to find homes for them through fostering and adoption.

The afternoon started with a "paw-rade" and was followed by the athletic events, including the high jump and obstacle course.

"We just love seeing the rest of the basset hounds," Dianne Popa said.

"And to rack up gold medals of course," added her husband with a laugh.

He said they train Dora for the races by having her run back and forth between him and his wife in their backyard.

Dianne Popa said they adopted Dora about six years ago and "she just completes our life."

This was a sentiment shared at the event, with many owners saying the dogs are compassionate, funny and laid-back.

Samantha and Josh Kanowitz, of Massapequa, had never gone to the Basset Hound Olympics until Saturday. They brought 3-year-old Oliver to compete for the first time.

Oliver, who had longer legs than the rest of the bunch, seemed to have an advantage. In his first race, the 10-meter sprint, he came in third, as his family videotaped him crossing the finish line.

"He's a mush," Samantha Kanowitz said as she held her 8-week-old daughter, Kasey, whom she said Oliver adores and shows his affection by slobbering on her.

"You will never meet a sweeter dog."

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