Ashland police Officers Steve MacLennan and Bon Stewart trained their radar guns on a different kind of speeder Thursday to help two boys from Helman Elementary School determine what dogs run the fastest and why.
"We had to do a science project and I thought of dogs because I really like dogs and I wanted my project to have something to do with dogs," said Bowie Brandao, 9.
"They say greyhounds are the fastest but we don't really know why."
Bowie and his 6-year-old brother, Blaze, thought their dog Sparky would be a contender "because we think he has a little bit of greyhound in him," Bowie said.
For nearly an hour, the brothers videotaped dogs and recorded data with the help of APD's radar guns as part of a project for Helman's annual Science Fair, set for 5 to 6:30 p.m. today at the school.
Their hypothesis: The fastest dogs would be determined by coat thickness, leg and nose length and presence of "butt muscles."
MacLennan and Stewart took aim at a variety of dogs from a squad car parked on the lawn at the Ashland dog park near Helman Street.
The first, Sparky, clocked 19 mph.
Laika, a large Burnese mountain and Australian shepherd mix, was next. MacLennan shouted, "Throw the ball at the car," then readied his radar as Laika charged the officers, clocking an unimpressive 15 mph.
Subsequent attempts by Sparky and Laika yielded speeds of 22 mph for Sparky and 20 and 22 mph for Laika.
"The bigger ones are a little easier to get," Stewart noted.
After clocking three large breed dogs, the two officers took aim at Tucker, a distracted boxer whose speed — and attention span — dwindled as several tennis balls flew overhead.
Tucker's owner, Marcus McCollum of Ashland, noted, "He's pretty fast when he wants to think about running, but there's too much going on right now."
Nearby, a yellow lab named Chester, who commanded scores of 19 and 21 mph after being lured by a flying tennis ball, attempted his signature trick of scooping two balls into his mouth at once.
A Jack Russell named Angel, whom Bowie deemed "not very fast" at 18 mph, circled a group of children, her mind far from racing.
A flat-coat retriever named Casey took the lead at 25 mph in just two attempts, all for the sake of pleasing his master.
"He always comes no matter what," said Casey's owner, Don Dolan of Ashland. "He doesn't get distracted when I'm calling him. He's a good boy. I figured he'd run 25 pretty easily.
"Hey Casey, you're the fastest dog here!"
Bowie videotaped the activity while his mother helped record scores as she quipped, "Where are all the greyhounds?"
While they had some data to "put together when we get home," Bowie said the dogs with longer hair and larger stature "were the fastest runners."
"It's coming out that the big dogs with a lot of hair are going a pretty good speed," Bowie said.
"I guess the bigger dogs have a lot of muscle and they go the fastest. But they all like to run."
Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.