Pet heaven, especially for kids

 
 
  • Saikou, a Border Collie and a Dog Scout of America, spins the wheel to win a bag of pet food at the Chicagoland Family Pet Expo Friday at Arlington Park in Arlington Heights.

    Saikou, a Border Collie and a Dog Scout of America, spins the wheel to win a bag of pet food at the Chicagoland Family Pet Expo Friday at Arlington Park in Arlington Heights. Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

  • Sophie Speedy, 9, of Arlington Heights puckers up for a kiss with Zelda, a 14-year-old Boston terrier, in the kissing booth for the Midwest Boston terrier Rescue at the Chicagoland Family Pet Expo at Arlington Park in Arlington Heights.

    Sophie Speedy, 9, of Arlington Heights puckers up for a kiss with Zelda, a 14-year-old Boston terrier, in the kissing booth for the Midwest Boston terrier Rescue at the Chicagoland Family Pet Expo at Arlington Park in Arlington Heights. Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

  • Kathleen Kaiser of Glenview samples a dog cookie that is good enough for people. It's made by Nutrilicious Natural Bakery in Wayne.

    Kathleen Kaiser of Glenview samples a dog cookie that is good enough for people. It's made by Nutrilicious Natural Bakery in Wayne. Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

  • Arden, a Belgian Malinois, performs the high jump with the Rock-n-Roll K9's Performance Team.

    Arden, a Belgian Malinois, performs the high jump with the Rock-n-Roll K9's Performance Team. Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

Published: 3/21/2009 12:04 AM

Sophie Speedy of Arlington Heights had one mission in mind on Friday: to pet as many animals as possible.

At the first day of the Chicagoland Pet Expo, which runs through Sunday at Arlington Park, the 9-year-old made the rounds with her sisters and grandmother, petting every dog, cat, bird and bunny in sight.

She didn't stop at petting. Speedy was one of many patrons drawn to the kissing booth set up by Midwest Boston Terrier Rescue volunteers. It featured 14-year-old Zelda, a rescued Boston terrier up for adoption, who eagerly cuddled with visitors.

This is the 17th year the Pet Expo has returned to Arlington Park. Its more than 300 booths, entertainment stage and live competition arenas stretch up to the third level of the racetrack's clubhouse.

The Rock-n-Roll K9 Performance team comes on every other hour on the second-floor stage. Nearly a dozen dogs demonstrated their agility and obedience during the show before a standing-room-only crowd.

Arden, a Belgian Malinois, won the high-jump competition, clearing a 5-foot fence.

The show features more than 50 rescue groups with multiple dog breeds, cat clubs and even some exotic pets.

Bob Payne, show manager with Tower Show Productions, says the Pet Expo expects to draw nearly 15,000 patrons over the course of the three-day event.

"You have a great cross section of pets here," Payne says. "It's a wonderful place to learn about the different breeds and become an educated pet owner."

Linda Wagner of Lakemoor took in the show with her son, Nick, and his family.

"We just love animals," Wagner said. "What better place to take kids."

In fact, children and their families made up much of the crowd, many enjoying their first day of spring break. Vendors quickly realized that in order to hook people into visiting their booth, they needed to put their cutest pet out front.

Consequently, Dog Scouts of America, which promotes responsible dog ownership, had a golden shepherd accepting dollar bills in its mouth before depositing them into the collection jar, while the Illinois Saint Bernard Rescue club featured 176-pound Otis wearing bunny ears.

Merchants handed out gifts, like the "smart cookie," described as being for "you and your dog."

Cindy Maril of South Elgin gladly sampled the pumpkin flax variety before trying the apple. Both were made by Nutrilicious Natural Bakery and promoted by Horse & Rider Treats.

"They're delicious," Maril said of the 30-calorie treat. "I'm just worried that I'm going to eat them, and not my dog."

If you go

What: 17th annual Chicagoland Pet Expo

When: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. today, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday

Where: Arlington Park, 2200 W. Euclid Ave., Arlington Heights

Cost: $10 for adults, $5 for children 3-12, $1 adult coupon available online

More information: petchicago.com