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Plum dog trainer hopes to walk to world record

With 35 dogs leashed to his waist, Joe Orsino Jr. spent Sunday afternoon walking laps around the Clementine's Restaurant parking lot.

Every so often he would yell, "Wait!" and the dogs stopped. He'd then yell, "OK!" and the dogs, most of them with their noses to the pavement, resumed plodding along.

Orsino, 56, of Plum likes to stay in shape but didn't strap himself to roughly 2,000 pounds in canine weight simply to get in a workout. His training exercise was a trial run in advance of his planned attempt to break a world record on Saturday.

Orsino aims to get his name in the Guinness Book of World Records for "most dogs walked simultaneously by an individual." Canadian Melissa Crispin Piche set the current mark, walking 27 dogs for 43 minutes and 17 seconds on Sept. 13, 2008.

Orsino, owner of Mr. O's The Dog Training Place along Leechburg Road, said he decided to try to break the record to raise awareness of the benefits of dog training.

"I'm doing this to show that training is a good thing," he said.

He will attempt to break the record at Heinz Field during the Lupus Loop 5K, in which participants raise money for The Lupus Foundation.

Orsino has trained each of the dogs he will walk this weekend. They range from a 170-pound Newfoundland to a 5-pound Yorkshire terrier.

Jessie, a 2-year-old English mastiff owned by Robin Weidman of Whitehall, will be among the dogs vying for a place in history. As she watched Jessie circle the parking lot, Weidman said she was amazed her pooch wasn't putting up a fuss.

She credited Orsino with helping Jessie overcome several fears through a one-day training program.

"She was afraid of everything," Weidman said, adding that she got Jessie from a shelter in Illinois that rescues mastiffs.

Weidman admitted to having reservations about letting Jessie participate. "I said I'd be willing but that I worried my dog would wreck it for them."

That didn't happen yesterday. Jessie behaved as well as any other dog in the group.

"I can't believe it," Weidman said. "Here she is walking with 30-some dogs not far from traffic."

Orsino said he has been training dogs for 35 years. He said he started training them for the Army during the Vietnam War.

Orsino has one other goal set for Saturday: He hopes to have his own dog, a long-haired German shepherd named Gracie, set a record by walking 15 dogs on a leash she holds in her mouth.

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