ST. GEORGE — Tails wagged and puppies panted at the I Love Pets Fun Run on Saturday at Tonaquint Park.

Brooke Schneider takes home the gold for the 10K at the I Love Pets Fun Run, St. George, Utah, Feb. 10, 2024 | Photo by Bridger Palmer, St. George News

Dogs of all shapes and sizes made new friends as their owners competed in the races.

Though the event, sponsored by the city of St. George, was advertised as welcoming to all pets, only dogs participated in this inaugural event.

Participants could choose from a 10K, 5K or an almost 1-mile Fun Run Walk N’ Roll.

The winner of the 10K was 13-year-old Brooke Schneider, taking it home on her off day and running faster than even the dogs.

“My brother had a golf tournament here so I came out here with him,” Schneider said.”I’m excited to be the first one done. I didn’t expect that.”

The event organizers awarded medals and three local businesses manned their booths around the perimeter of the starting line. Staff from Pet Cremation of Southern Utah, Best Friends Animal Sanctuary and Pets Are Family Too distributed dog-themed souvenirs and stickers.

Aaron Metler, recreation manager for races and events for the city of St. George, was satisfied with the turnout of nearly 130 total people and furry friends.

Penny poses for a photo at the I Love Pets Fun Run, St. George, Utah, Feb. 10, 2024 | Photo by Bridger Palmer, St. George News

“Our year one goal was to get 100 participants, and we are thrilled to have exceeded that,” Metler said. “We’d love to expand the race and grow it to have 1000 people in the future.”

The event was also held in celebration of the Rainbow Bridge Pet Memorial at the Tonaquint Nature Center. The bridge is said to guide pets after they leave the physical world.

The event brought people and dogs outside in a unique occasion, said Stephanie Long, noting that the only other event where you could bring your dog is the Turkey Trot.

Long was accompanied by Penny, a 7-year-old golden retriever who ran the 5K with her.

“It’s nice to get the dog out to do something,” Long said.

Ensuring that the races started on time was Curtis Lyman, a relatively new employee of St. George Races, who served as the emcee for the event. Though it was only his third event, the event didn’t have any setbacks with him at the helm. He enjoys the community things like this brings and echoed Long’s feelings.

“It’s good to get out and feel like I’m more a part of the city,” Lyman said.

Metler explained the inspiration behind combining the Fun Run with the Rainbow Bridge Pet Memorial, saying that the community wanted a pet event, making the Rainbow Bridge Pet Memorial the perfect backdrop for the I Love Pets Fun Run.

He hopes to make the event a yearly tradition.

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