‘Wiggles & Wags’ 4-H dog project veteran returns to this year’s Putnam County Fair
For 16-year-old Alyssa Hofmann and her dog, Zing, competing in the Putnam County Fair’s pet show has become an annual tradition.
Alyssa, a member of the Winfield Scotts 4-H Club, has become an expert on preparing Zing, a 2-year-old whippet, for the pet show, which is open to all pet owners and their pets.
Zing “looks like a greyhound,” Alyssa said, during a recent visit to the fairgrounds in Eleanor, accompanied by her mother, Nancy, and Zing.
Sleek and svelte, Zing does, in fact, resemble a greyhound. Zing also has a sixth sense about him, knowing, as he somehow does, that Alyssa is a special dog owner.
A childhood accident left Alyssa with a head injury, but that hasn’t stopped her from participating in the Putnam County 4-H program. The friendships she has made in 4-H and the projects she has participated in have benefited Alyssa greatly, just as they would benefit anyone, her mother said.
“All children face challenges, and the camaraderie we have experienced in 4-H is why we’ve stayed happily involved for so many years. Alyssa is not in 4-H because she faces some challenges, she’s in 4-H because the 4-H adults and kids treat her as they would any other kid,” Hofmann said.
Alyssa and her family acquired Zing when he was a puppy. They wanted a whippet because they were already familiar with the breed.
“We had a whippet before -- his name was Chase,” Alyssa said.
Hofmann said Zing is a family pet, but he also became the focus of Alyssa’s “Wiggles & Wags” 4-H dog project book.
“She’s on her second year of a three-year Wiggles & Wags dog project, so she picked him (Zing) for her project dog. This is her third time in the pet show,” Hofmann said.
In the days leading up to the Putnam County Fair pet show, Alyssa must make sure Zing looks his best. He competes in the large dog class.
“I have to clean him up and make him presentable,” Alyssa said, adding that Zing loves to be brushed.
During the pet show, pet owners and their respective pets walk around the show ring, while the judges make their decisions. The show also features a “costume class,” which Alyssa particularly enjoys.
“It’s pretty competitive and a lot of fun for the kids,” Hofmann said.
In past shows, Alyssa and her mother have dressed as “Thing 1” and “Thing 2” from Dr. Seuss, with Zing dressed as “Thing Zing.”
Alyssa “does need assistance to walk any distance, so I assist her in the pet show. Zing is a good sport and figured out quickly how to walk along with Alyssa -- without tripping her or getting stepped on too often,” Hofmann said.
Last year, for the costume class, Alyssa dressed as Little Red Riding Hood, with Zing disguised as the Big Bad Wolf. Also at last year’s fair, Alyssa and Zing earned the title “Best in Fair” at the pet show.
Alyssa’s and Zing’s costumes for this year’s pet show, which took place on Saturday, July 8, were “still under construction,” Hofmann said.
In addition to working on her Wiggles & Wags 4-H dog project book, Alyssa has been active in many other 4-H projects over the years. She has exhibited crafts, flowers, sewing projects, cookies and pickles.
“Getting to show the family pet gives kids who do not raise livestock an opportunity to exhibit an animal at the fair -- and bring it home afterward,” Hofmann said.
Hofmann said participating in 4-H has been a wonderful experience for Alyssa.
“We love 4-H; it’s a fabulous organization. The adults in 4-H -- they keep it going for the kids. They put a tremendous amount into it,” she said.
Scott Byars, Putnam County West Virginia University Extension agent for 4-H and youth development, said Alyssa is an inspiration to her fellow 4-H members. She’s also an enthusiastic participant in the annual Putnam County 4-H Camp, which was held recently at Camp Virgil Tate near Cross Lanes.
“She comes to camp, and she’s got a contagious smile. She ended up winning the Spirit of 4-H Camp award -- it’s a great honor,” Byars said.
Byars said the Wiggles & Wags 4-H project book teaches 4-H’ers about the responsibility of caring for a pet, including identifying body parts and health and nutrition requirements. He said most 4-H members who do a pet project book enter their pets in the Putnam County Fair’s open pet show.