Chihuahuas unleash their speed in race for regional title 

The day before one of the biggest races of her life, Clarabelle slept.

The champion Chihuahua spent the afternoon stretching her little legs, yawning and nodding in and out of long, blurry naps.

"She does a lot of sleeping," Clarabelle’s owner Kristel Krepelka said.

This weekend, the 11-pound pooch will attempt to chase down a fairy-tale finish on a 35-foot Chihuahua racetrack in San Bruno. She is the returning champion of the Bay Area regional Petco Unleashed races. The event, now in its third year, will be held today in the El Camino Real pet store’s front parking lot.

The 4-year-old Clarabelle is vying for the title against a record 300 Chihuahua competitors, and in front of an expected 1,200 Chihuahua owners and fans, according to Petco spokeswoman Juliann Bryan.

Not only that, she’s trying to join her 6-year-old sister, Isabelle, in the national championship race at San Diego’s Petco Park. The winner of each regional competition will race against the country’s fastest short-legged dog during a Major League Baseball game. Never has a sister duo qualified for nationals, Petco officials say.

"It’s going to be a big race," Krepelka said. "She’s ready."

Isabelle recently won the Sacramento-area finals, skirting across the track like a slow-moving missile, in 2.11 seconds.

"They go pretty fast," Krepelka said. "But at one race, one of the dogs started out and the rest stayed back and were just milling around the starting gate. It was like an eight-minute-long race."

Though Krepelka would love to see Clarabelle make the nationals, she said winning is far from the reason her dogs compete. The Chihuahuas love it, their owners find it adorable and the regional events are a perfect forum for finding a home for homeless Chihuahuas.

ThePeninsula Humane Society said that last year it received more than 8,500 dogs, cats and other pets, and thousands of sick, injured and orphaned wild animals. The Peninsula Humane Society, the SPCA and the Petco foundation will attend the race and bring along some furry friends in need of families, organizers say.

"We work with local adoption groups to raise awareness about adoptions and find loving families for homeless pets, including Chihuahuas," Petco spokeswoman Marta Karpinski said.

"[The event] is entirely just to celebrate the human-animal bond," Bryan said.

maldax@examiner.com 

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