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My amazing adventure at Niagara’s Muddy Paws Wine Festival

By Maisy May

I knew something was definitely up when my humans didn’t take me for my usual morning walk last Saturday.

They spent a lot of time packing up a knapsack with all my favourite treats, two umbrellas, various leashes, and rain gear. I was worried, but also excited because I was pretty darn sure whatever we were doing it was going to include me.

Sure enough, I was herded into the back of the SUV and was heading on a route I wasn’t familiar with. My humans were giggling and very animated in the front of the car. Something was definitely up.

Niagara wine
Well, this looks like fun.
My favourite pup of them all, this silver merle Great Dane. Smelled real good.

The drive was a little farther than I like, but doggone it, I had a good feeling about this. We pulled into what looked like a giant-sized park with green rows of plants and a building in the middle of it. The humans kept referring to it as Vineland Estate, which I recognized as a label on some sort of drink my humans seem to enjoy in the back yard while I’m busy trying to hunt for one of those pesky birds, but I digress.

We got of the car and OH MY DOG!!! there were humans and dogs everywhere. A sign read Welcome of the Muddy Paws Wine Festival and by the time my humans got their official dog tags, I had sniffed at least 10 dog butts, was snapped at twice by a tiny little dog (they are always the toughest!) and the dog drool was flying. I was in heaven!

Somehow they turn grapes into wine here.

My humans seemed pretty happy, too. They both had something cold and pink in their glasses as we visited the coolest booths in the world — treats galore, funny dog-themed shirts and humans talking to humans about whatever it is they talk about. Me? Far too busy making new friends (OK, and the odd enemy), but mostly friends. I freaked out a little over this giant-sized dog that reminded me of my favourite comic strip — Marmaduke, but he was pretty friendly. Also a slightly smaller version of that dog, which I heard someone say was a silver merle Great Dane. Don’t tell anyone, but I licked that face like a million times.

Little did I know, but this was just the beginning of my adventure. My humans tugged me away from Vineland and into the rows of what I learned later were grape vines (which, trust me here, actually turns into wine somehow, much to the delight of my humans, NOT KIDDING). Holy Malamute it was hot out!!!

And off I go into the vineyards with my human mommy.
Yep, made another friend on the trail. Made plans to meet up later.
We stopped a lot on the way to Featherstone.
They weren’t kidding when they named this the Muddy Paws festival!
A sea of humans and dogs in the woods along the Bruce Trail. Oh joy!
My human daddy, who seemed to sweat a lot all day.

We headed down into a forest, a tiny path that led somewhere mysterious with an endless supply of dogs in all shapes, sizes and dispositions. I learned very quickly that there is a doggie code of behaviour, even in my world, that needs to be adhered to. Sniffing without asking is a no-no and a few of the grumpier dogs let me know it in no uncertain terms. I found out fast that you need to get some sort nodding approval before you just go for it. Did I mention the silver merle Great Dane? Man, what a hunk.

The trail was long, muddy and void of any water, but so much fun with an endless array of dogs and humans to mess with. After about a half hour we came to a clearing and another building surrounded by vines. There was a sign pointing to Featherstone Estate and I could hear some funky music wafting from a big tent. It was the joyous sound of more fun ahead. I pulled my humans at a renewed giddy-up pace, which they didn’t seem to like.

Take the shot! Take the shot!
Love me some cold water.
I’m not in this shot, but what the hell, enjoy.

My first order of business was water — for drinking and cooling in — and lo and behold there were these tiny wading pools all over the place. I jumped in with this cute, curly haired blond poodle and had a blast. I could not understand, though, all the humans taking endless photos of us. I mean, give us dogs some space, please!

We moved on from the pools and over to the treat station where (I was told later) Featherstone’s David Johnson (Ontario winemaker of the year, by the way) was busy making both human and doggie treats for us. He kind of messed with the humans by making their treats look like dog bones (my human daddy thought it was maybe one of those hidden camera tricks and avoided them all together). Mine was amazing … pretty sure there was some peanut butter and cinnamon in there. I washed them down with a long, cool drink of water.

David Johnson makes a batch of doggie and human treats.

My humans enjoyed what looked like grilled pork Souvlaki and beef with noodles. I needed a little break and sat quietly while they ate. I am special that way, when I want to be.

After some more fun in the doggie pools and (respectful) sniffing and licking, we made the long trek back to Vineland.

Thanks, I needed that.

Only one thing left to do — the dog smooching contest. I urged my humans to enter me, because this is something I am very good at. I take great pride in my kissing skills and as I sized up the competition, I was pretty sure victory would be mine. We were the last of six competitors, and after what I witnessed, I didn’t even think I had to try very hard. I chose my daddy human to be my partner and he seemed down with it. We made our way to the staging area and he sat down on the ground and I basically devoured him with an onslaught of slobbery kisses. Maybe a hundred licks before he couldn’t take it anymore. Victory was certainly mine.

Then the announcement came: “And in third place, Maisy, come on up.” What, did he just say THIRD place? I nailed it. I blew away the competition. That little boxer (the announced “winner”) barely landed one full kiss on her human’s face. I slathered mine with the full monty like I’ve never slathered before.

I took my bag of treats and graciously acknowledged the winner with a subtle wag of my tail.

Next year I’ll take my human mommy as my partner, that’ll show them!

About Maisy May

Maisy May is an Orange Belton English Setter born on May 7, 2018 in Kemptville, Ontario. She now lives in St. Catharines, Ont., with her humans, Rick, Maureen and Tabria, where she spends her days hunting for squirrels, birds and, well, anything that moves. She has yet to catch anything. She also likes long walks along Lake Ontario, soft couches, counter surfing and sandals of any kind. Her favourite Sirius channel is The Bridge and her favourite food is kibble with hard-boiled eggs mixed in. She’s a good kisser and the current holder of the bronze medal at the 2019 Muddy Paws Wine Festival Smoothing Contest. To this day she maintains she should have won the gold medal. It will haunt for a full year.

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