Pulling for the family

Matt DeYoung • Jan 30, 2017 at 9:00 AM

At 10 years old, Ali had retired from competing in the Winterfest Family Dog Pull.

But on Saturday, her family talked her into making one more appearance, and she made the most, winning the 26-50 pound division.

“We’re doing a happy birthday run,” said Ali’s owner, Heidi Clinasmith, whose daughters, Emily and Lilly, each had a turn riding behind Ali. “Ali just turned 10, and Emily is 3 today. This is our sixth or seventh  year. Ali was retired, but we talked her into it.”

Ali was one of 17 dogs that competed in Saturday’s event, held near the foot of the bunny hill at Mulligan’s Hollow.

“It’s down from last year,” said event organizer Lori Poel of the City Farmer. “We probably had 10 more dogs last year, but you know, with the weather.”

More photos from Saturday’s Winterfest Family Dog Pull

The temperature hovered in the high 20s Saturday morning, but with a lack of snow across West Michigan, the number of competitors in the popular Winterfest activity lagged behind previous years.

Those who did attend had a great time, including the Flater family from Fruitport. Deegan, 5, and Flex 3, both got a turn to ride behind the family’s chocolate Labrador, Ziva. The 5-year-old Ziva was one of the strongest pullers in the field, taking second place in his division.

The youngest Flater – six-month-old Shift – watched the action while bundled up in several layers. He got to hang out in a front-pack carrier with his mom, Courtnie.

“We’ve been looking forward to this all year,” Courtnie said.

“I love it,” Deegan added.

Winners Saturday included dogs Ernie, Charlie, Chumlie, Stui and Ali.

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