Thursday, June 5, 2003

Dog breath bragging rights

Well, I am seriously conflicted. On the one hand, a Greater Cincinnati resident is about to compete for a national award. On the other hand, he's competing for the title of Worst Dog Breath in America.

I'm just not sure this is an accolade we need right now. We're already a punch line during football season. Why should we try to stink in another area?

But I am told this is educational and that the contestant is a seriously nice dog who fetches the Enquirer every morning without complaining about the taste of the ink or Peter Bronson or me. Clearly a rare and valuable customer.

Chase, a good-natured Vizsla, is perfect in every way according to his owner, except for a raging case of halitosis. "It smells like my brother's room," says Corin Pennella. Mark is a senior at Loveland High School, and Corin figures that if nothing else, the attention will make her brother's life a living hell. Which, she thinks, might be an even bigger prize than the year's supply of Yip Yap doggie mints and bragging rights.

Eau d' dead fish

Corin, 23, a pharmacy student, and Chase, 8, a Hungarian bird dog, will travel to New York City for the finals at Tavern on the Green restaurant. (Note to gourmets: book reservations elsewhere June 23.) He will be up against a cocker spaniel named Stinky, a pungent dachshund, a terrifyingly odorous terrier, a bulldog mix who exudes an aroma of dead fish and a Chihuahua pictured with her family in gas masks. This is according to the people who love them and have filled out the entry forms. More than 300 dogs from 37 states were entered.

So far, the rivalry has been on paper. The six finalists have been selected based on descriptions, but on June 23 judges will actually give each dog the sniff test. It sounds horrible, but it's not as revolting as watching humans eat bugs for money on Fear Factor. At least the dogs are not disgusting on purpose. Bad breath is probably caused by poor dental hygiene.

"We are hoping to highlight proper oral care for dogs," says Sarah Speare of Chomp Inc., which sells Yip Yaps.

Of course you are.

And if this happens to sell a few more Yip Yaps, well, she can probably live with that. Sarah and her sister, Lesley Lutyens, founded Chomp in New Jersey three years ago. Former designers and lifetime dog lovers, they depend, Sarah says, on the Big Dogs for support. Their CEO comes from Nabisco, and board members' pedigrees include Smartfoods (popcorn for people), a national supermarket chain and a prestigious law firm.

Besides Yip Yaps, they sell pet treats in more than 13,000 retail outlets including Bed Bath and Beyond. "I guess we're the Beyond," Sarah says. Their pet "candy" also is stocked in vending machines next to human candy, so you might want to read labels carefully.

Chomp donated 5 percent of May Yip Yap sales to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and will present a check at the ceremonies in New York. Corin says she is temporarily withholding Chase's ration of Yip Yaps until after the contest so he will arrive with his signature aroma of curdled milk, moldy towels and rancid swamp gas. Euwwwww.

On the other hand, it's for a cause that doesn't stink.

E-mail or phone 768-8393.

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