The Coast News Group
Lauren Stamper, age 12, of Carlsbad, competes in the peanut butter challenge with her chiweenie. The contest challenges dogs to race to finish a spoonful of peanut butter. Photo by Promise Yee
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5K Paw Walk brings dogs to the botanic garden

ENCINITAS — The starting line of the 5K Paw Walk, held on Feb. 20, looked a lot like other fun runs, with participants lined up dressed in event T-shirts, bandanas and some sporting costumes. What is distinct about the walk is that almost half the participants complete the 5K on all fours.

The annual 5K Paw Walk is a dog and owner fun run set in the scenic San Diego Botanic Garden. It is the only day that dogs can visit the 37-acre garden.

“We don’t allow dogs on a regular basis,” Sam Beukema, senior adult education manager of the garden, said. “It’s the one time they can enjoy the beautiful setting.”

Beukema said response to the yearly 5K has been very positive. “It’s 600 big wagging tails,” he said.

Course markers allow people to track the distance they walk through California native, Canary Islands, bamboo and palm gardens. Water was served at stations along the route in both cups and bowls.

Rancho Coastal Humane Society partners with the garden to hold the event. John Van Zante, public relations director of Rancho Coastal, said the walk is a great get together for dog owners.

Sara Zaknoen, of Carlsbad, brought her two Papillons on the walk.

“It’s such an opportunity to bring them into the garden,” Zaknoen said.

Mickey and Holly Foster, of Poway, participated in the 5K with their St. Bernard, Sam.

Sam serves as a therapy dog with Love On a Leash.

“We feel we should share him, he’s too sweet a dog to keep to ourselves,” Holly Foster said.

The event includes a festival area with a dog training agility course, veterinary Q and A booths and dog and people food.

An event highlight is the peanut butter and cream cheese challenge, which asks dog owners to hold a spoon filled with the treat with their teeth while their dog races to lick the peanut butter or cream cheese off the end of the spoon.

“It’s outrageous,” Van Zante said.

San Diego Botanic Garden and Rancho Coastal Humane Society have held the annual event for four years. Both organizations said it’s a good way to introduce new people to their nonprofit. The 5K is also a shared fundraiser that draws more than 200 dogs and 350 people to the garden.