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HORLYK: Dogs take to Tyson Events Center ice for a cause

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SIOUX CITY | First there was Gretzky. Now, let us introduce you to Grizzly.

The 6-year-old Shih Tzu may not be as speedy as hockey legend Wayne Gretzky but a black and white dog can be surefooted on ice.

Grizzly is one of the dogs participating in the lap dogs race that will be held between periods at tonight's Sioux City Musketeers' hockey game at the Tyson Events Center.

Dogs -- all small breeds and weighing less than 20 pounds -- will be racing from one end of the ice rink to the others for a chance to win prizes in the first annual competition sponsored by the Musketeers and the Siouxland Humane Society.

Well, at least that's the plan, according to the Humane Society's Jerry Dominicak.

"I've seen some hilarious YouTube videos of similar ice rink dogs races," he admitted. "Some dogs will actually race while others simply want to play on the ice. Either way, it will be fun for both dogs and masters."

That's exactly how Grizzly's owner Roberta Ellway feels about his canine's athletic endeavor.

"Grizzly's only experience on ice has been to maneuver his way across a driveway in wintertime," the Jefferson, S.D., woman said. "It will be interesting to see how he'll do on an ice rink."

Ellway fell in love with Grizzly, a shelter dog, more than five years ago.

"People look down on shelter animals because they think these animals will be hard to train," she said. "That certainly isn't the case with Grizzly, who is an angel when he's not being a pain in the rump."

In fact, Grizzly gets along fine with Elwell's other dog, a Husky named Mia.

"It's fun seeing a 60-pound dog playing with such a little dog but Mia and Grizzly are the best of friends," she said.

The two dogs even get along with Elwell's 3-and-a-half year old cat Molly, also a shelter animal.

Dominicak agrees with Elwell, regarding the not-always favorable rep of shelter animals.

"Some think of (shelter animals) as being throwaways," Dominicak said. "They don't take into consideration that sometimes people move or situations change, making pet ownership not feasible for some people."

Which is why some people will reluctantly need to bring their cherished pets to the Humane Society for adoption.

Elwell, a longtime Humane Society volunteer, knows firsthand the importance of animals in a person's life. Several times a week she will take one of the Humane Society's shelter dogs to area nursing homes.

"It's amazing to see a nursing home resident's reaction to a dog," she said. "The resident may not have said anything the entire day but at the sight of the dog, his eyes will light up at the sight of a furry friend."

A animal lover who likes everything except rats and snakes, Elwell said she's always been partial to dogs.

"Dogs have a natural kindness to them," she suggests. "Nobody can be in a bad mood when a dog's near by."

This is why the normally non-athletic Elwell will be on the ice along side Grizzly.

"I think Grizzly will do just fine but I'm a little worried about myself," she said with a laugh. "If I slip, I have a further way to go than Grizzly."

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