PALMETTO -- Stinky put on the brakes before she even reached the first bar jump.
Maybe the audience, which included throngs of people on one side and big bovines on the other, distracted the 4-year-old chihuahua.
But Zoe Zimmermann wouldn't let her little doggie give up during the agility round that opened the Manatee County Fair Dog Show Sunday.
The 12-year-old girl encouraged and encouraged and encouraged her fuzzy buddy until Stinky finally took a flurry of fast, tiny steps and went up and over the 8-inch bar; and then another and another and another brave bar jump.
Stinky even soared up the A-Frame. But she made the mistake, at the pinnacle of the structure that stood as
nearly as high as her beloved master, to stop and study her surroundings inside the Mosaic Arena.
Going down the steep decline must have appeared just too dangerous.
But, with the helpful words of her kind handler, Stinky made it.
The tunnel proved equally tough, and the crowd again giggled a bit when the dog initially refused to enter the darkness, but Stinky eventually made it through, following the voice of her master.
Stinky, exhausted but looking proud all the same, completed the obstacle course and was rewarded with a piece of chicken.
"The new setting made it hard for her," Zoe, said as she held Stinky close to her face, which the dog occasionally licked with its teeny tongue. "And all the noises and sounds bothered her, too."
Zoe, a student at the Manatee School for the Arts participated Sunday along with other members of the K-9 Kids 4-H Club of Manatee County. She has cared for Stinky since the puppy was six months old.
"She was a rescue," Zoe said, "from an abandoned home."
Stinky, who also competed at the dog show last year, has come a long way since when her young owner first started training her.
"She was a real stinker," Zoe responded when asked how the dog got her name. "She was a bad puppy; very high strung and hyper."
The girl added, "But she's much better now."
Stinky still had the obedience and showmanship competitions ahead of her but it was already a good day for the doggie.
"It's all about the fun," said Zoe's mom, Stella Arent. "She wouldn't go through the tunnels at all last year."
Bonnie Scott, a Bradenton resident who is an agility instructor at the Sarasota Obedience Training Club, again judged the agility portion of the dog show.
"What impressed me the most today is how much everyone improved," Scott said. "The kids really work hard and it has paid off."
The Manatee County Fair continues daily through Jan. 27 at the fairgrounds, 1303 17th St. W., Palmetto Admission: $8 for ages 13 and older, $7 for age 55 and older, $5 for children ages 6 to 12; free for kids age 5 and younger. Parking is $5. Information: 941-722-8951 or www.manateecountyfair.com. For complete coverage visit bradenton.com/fair.
Wade Tatangelo, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7057. Follow Twitter.com/wtatangelo.