Dressed in black sashes and sombreros, “Team Pancho” cheered on their tiny canine competitor during the fourth annual PETCO Unleashed Races in San Diego, Calif.
Five-year-old Pancho Villa, owned by Samantha and Mike Patrick of Lopez Island, beat out 188 other dogs at the Regional PETCO Chihuahua Races in Seattle on April 26. As regional winner, Pancho represented the Pacific Northwest at the race for “America’s Fastest Chihuahua” in California over Labor Day weekend. The race was held in front of thousands of roaring Chihuahua and baseball fans between innings of a San Diego Padres baseball game at PETCO Park.
Pancho placed third in the competition, which featured 14 other dogs, representing Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, Orange County (Anaheim), Orlando, Phoenix, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. Los Angeles chihuahua Tiger, the 2006 Unleashed National Champion, won this year’s race. Many of the pups were returning racers, making Pancho’s third place win all the more notable. His prize was a $100 PETCO certificate and a year’s supply of dog food.
“The big prize was the trip, of course,” said Samantha, referring to the three-day, expenses paid trip to San Diego, courtesy of PETCO. “We had the best time. We walked into the (hotel) room and they had fruit baskets and a big bag with goodies, like a Padres hat, baseball, and jersey, dog food dishes, and doggie toys.”
Samantha and her daughter Brie Morud stayed with the other proud parents at the Omni Hotel next to PE TCO Park in the Gaslamp District. “Seeing everyone from all over the country – that was pretty fun. We had a hotel full of doggies! And the dogs got to hang out by the pool. It was very pet-friendly.” When the Padres won games on Friday and Saturday, Samantha and Brie had the chance to enjoy a fireworks display from their 16th-floor room. “It was an extra treat,” noted Samantha.
Samantha and Mike don’t subject Pancho to rigorous training for his competitions. “It’s for fun and he already knew what the experience was: how to run!” This is Pancho’s second year of racing; at last year’s regionals he couldn’t get through the gate to compete. “It was too narrow; they’ve since improved the gates,” said Samantha.
Nearly 2,900 Chihuahuas competed in this year’s regional races, making PETCO Unleashed the nation’s largest and fastest growing Chihuahua race.