The Easter egg hunt, the centuries-old tradition that greets spring and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, has officially gone to the dogs.
Exhibit A was an egg hunt for dogs Saturday morning in Hillsborough. Exhibit B surfaced Saturday afternoon at an adults-only egg hunt at a dog rescue shelter in Mebane.
The egg hunt for canines was at Hillsborough’s Gold Park, a wind-swept patch of grass wedged between a shuttered textile mill and the Eno River.
With their noses brushing the ground, 30 dogs dragged their human companions around a field strewn with colorful plastic eggs stuffed with kibble and dog snacks.
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Most of the dogs relied on their human staff to twist the eggs open and liberate the treats.
Not so for Nico, a pointer-hound mix who gathered the most eggs to become the 2016 Champion Egg Hunter of Hillsborough.
Ana Aristizabal opened a plastic grocery bag full of empty plastic eggs, many cracked and pierced with holes from Nico’s teeth.
“He was cutting right through the eggs!” Aristizabal said.
Aristizabal enjoyed the first-place basket of dog treats, squeaky toys and other goodies, but she said her favorite part of the day was hobnobbing with police dogs and their human partners.
The doggie egg hunt was the brainchild of the canine unit of the Hillsborough Police Department, whose two dogs, Canine Viper and Canine Vader, are trained to sniff out drugs, fugitives and criminal suspects.
Cpl. Scott Foster bragged on Vader, his Czech-trained partner. Foster told how a woman in Mebane was harassed by an ex-boyfriend, who would bang on her windows in the night and hide in the woods when police came. A domestic protection order had no effect. But the man has not returned since Vader tracked him in the woods and pounced on him, Foster said.
“Even with all our modern technology, nothing beats the nose of a dog,” Foster said. “Every day is an Easter egg hunt for our dogs.”
For Christians, the egg is a symbol of spring, rebirth and Christ’s resurrection. The Easter egg hunt itself probably dates back to Martin Luther, the 16th-century leader of the Protestant Reformation, according to theology professor Lizette Larson-Miller.
“Some believe Martin Luther was the first to suggest that the men in the household hide eggs in their gardens – representing the garden of Christ’s tomb – for their wives and children to find,” Larson-Miller told the Los Angeles Times.
Saturday’s hunt for hounds had no hard-boiled eggs. Hillsborough police stuffed 1,000 plastic eggs with dog food and treats and spread them around the park.
Even dyed-in-the-wool cat lovers would probably have found the hunt pretty darn cute.
Michelle Kempf could not stop laughing and smiling as Arnold Schwarzenegger, her 6-month-old hound-Lab mix, dragged her from egg to egg. Arnie snuggled up to strangers, licking them before lunging for another egg and tangling himself in his leash. All the while his tail was a perpetual motion machine
“He is a total butt wagger!” Kempf laughed.
Not for children
The adults-only hunt took place at Paws4Ever, a 10-acre animal shelter that offers obedience training.
Organizers had hoped that 150 would attend the fundraiser. Crystal Culler was one of the 300-plus attendees who showed up for beer, bluegrass and a chance to forage in the woods for 2,000 eggs filled with candy, money, prizes and mini-bottles of alcohol.
Culler said she was partly drawn by the mission of helping dogs.
“My parents never took me to any egg hunts as a kid,” Culler said. “I’m fixing that today.”
The egg hunters, some holding beers, dogs on leashes or both, lined up along a road in the woods. When an air horn sounded, all scrambled through the leaves and trees. They made fast work, scooping up the eggs in a minute.
Ebony Fitzgerald has fond childhood memories of Easter egg hunts in the cemetery of White Cross AME Church in Efland.
“As adults, we miss that fun,” said Fitzgerald, 26, who sported pink rabbit ears. “We go to work, come home and provide for our families.”