Ruffed Up

Unreal thinks that dogs are incredible, sizes matter and carp cakes are good eatin'. Plus, an artist has some colorful words for ArtDimensions Village.

Cosmo, a standard poodle, has blue skin. Hints of it glint through his dark coat, which two weekends back was trimmed in a Town and Country cut: puffed out around his shoulders and hips and trimmed along his spine. On Saturday his owner, Judy Strait, brought him to the Purina Incredible Dog Challenge, held October 6 and 7 at Purina Farms in Gray Summit, and Cosmo seemed a bit overwhelmed by all the action.

There were dogs everywhere. They waited patiently for pieces of hot dogs, they barked, they chased each other, they played, some fought and one little dog escaped from its owner, zipped across a field and then threw itself against a fence.

Megan Mayhew, doing duty at the information booth, shook her head when asked to put an exact number on how many dogs were present. "There are so many dogs," she said. "Dogs, dogs, just tons of dogs."

Great leapin' pooches, that's incredible!
Lee A. Presser
Great leapin' pooches, that's incredible!

Soon after arriving, Cosmo ran into a number of close relatives. First his mother, Princess Paris, showed up, followed shortly by his brother, Prince Rogan, his grandmother, Asia, and his great aunt, Camelot. Princess Paris' owner, Cindy Jones, wore a T-shirt with a picture of a poodle with fluorescent pink toenails prancing around beneath the Eiffel Tower. "I always paint her nails pink," Jones said, referring to Princess Paris.

The competition at the event was the central attraction. Human and dog spectators surrounded a large ring where pooches from all over the nation ran through obstacle courses, raced one other and caught Frisbees. There was also a diving dog competition, in which dogs ran off a dock and leaped into a pool of water. The winner, Missy, broke the previous world record by jumping 28 feet, 10 inches. On her final jump, she did a back flip.

Cindy, a greyhound from Miami, had already earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for her 66-inch high jump. This year she was attempting to jump 68 inches. When she entered the ring, the crowd went silent. (Dogs included.) She warmed up by catching a Frisbee. Then the strains of Van Halen's "Jump" came over the loudspeakers. Cindy, whose full name is Soaring Cindy, took her running start and cleared the bar with room to spare.

The crowd went wild.

(Unreal included.)

Let Them Eat Carp Cake

Invasive species of Asian carp represent a serious threat to the ecology of Midwestern rivers. Studies indicate that since their arrival here a decade ago, the powerful and fast-growing carp have already depleted native fish populations. What's more, the carp are responsible for dozens of human injuries when the massive fish (which can grow to 60 pounds) leap onto boats.

But a team of University of Missouri researchers and Saint Louis Zoo nutritionists may have an answer to the growing aquatic menace. They propose grinding up the unsavory fish to form "carp cakes" that can be fed to zoo animals. For more on this tale, we tossed a line to MU fisheries researcher Robert Hayward.

Unreal: Who cooked up this scheme?

Robert Hayward: A group of us first met about a year ago to discuss the possibility of commercially fishing the carp. We thought animal feed would be a good idea. Essentially, we have this huge biomass of fish flesh in Missouri rivers that is going to waste. But the fish are too big to feed to most zoo animals. That's why we have to grind them up.

How do you like your carp cakes?

I hate to say that I've never tried them. I hear mixed reviews from people who have eaten the fish. Unfortunately, carp has something of a bad rap in the United States. They're known as bottom feeders.

Perhaps Tuna Helper would help?

Maybe. To me it's an irony that we have people going hungry and have a great amount of fish in the rivers that we can't use because of people's attitudes. These fish are tremendously popular in Asia.

Do our zoo animals share our palate or have more Asian tastes?

The jury is out. We're still working on the consistency of the cake before we experiment with the animals. We put the ground-up fish into a mold, and we need to make sure the cake sticks together. Some animals, like sea lions, like to play with their food more than others.

You Know What They Say

Does size matter? At Johnston & Murphy's men's shoe sale at Westfield West County this past weekend, the answer was a rock-solid yes. Wing tips, cap toes, moccasins, Venetian slip-ons and boat shoes were all available at reduced prices — but only in sizes eight through nine.

It was what's called a "sample sale," regional sales manager Frances Sarmiento tells Unreal, comprising styles that had been considered for Johnston & Murphy's collection but never manufactured in bulk. Sarmiento says clothing prototypes are typically created in small sizes.

Unreal: Is your company in any way affiliated with Masters and Johnson?

Frances Sarmiento: No. Our parent company is Genesco Inc., based out of Nashville.

One might expect a sale like this to fail miserably, seeing as men with feet that small would probably be too embarrassed to leave the house.

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