PORTLAND, Maine — The accusations of performance enhancers were good natured, but immediate. Lin Walton began explaining her secret to winning Planet Dog’s annual Valentine’s Day dog kissing contest in 2010, when Richard Johnson called over, “It’s because she’s wearing beef tenderloin makeup.”

The competitors had a hearty laugh as nearly 30 dogs and their amorous owners filed into the Marginal Way store Wednesday night. An hour later, Walton, who finished as the first runner-up last year, reclaimed her crown with a 59-second lip lock — so to speak — with Beau.

“Get a room,” yelled one challenger at around the 35-second mark.

“He just has a talent,” Walton, of Saco, said of her little kissing contest veteran.

No other pup got beyond 40 seconds of mouth licking. Many of the entries, including five out of the first six, ahem, couples, couldn’t perform under pressure. It was hard to focus with so many other dogs around to socialize with.

Scott Nevers of Gorham managed just a few seconds with Nadia.

“I think the key is just to open the mouth wide,” he said. “We were thinking of smuggling in a little peanut butter, but somebody would have noticed.”

That’s not necessarily the case, said store manager Jim Williams, although contest organizers prefer kissers play fair.

“We don’t encourage artificial enhancers, like smothering their face with liver or meat, but we also don’t frisk people coming in,” William said with a smirk. “Every dog is different. Some are good lickers and kissers, and others aren’t.”

The contest, now in its eighth year, raises money for Planet Dog’s charity arm, the Planet Dog Foundation, which benefits various service dog programs. Participants pitched in $5 to take part, and for winning, Walton walked away with a prize package of $75 worth of Planet Dog goods.

Williams said the Valentine’s Day smooch-off ranks among the organization’s best-attended fundraisers — right up there with the Halloween doggy costume contest and the Santa Claus photo ops at Christmas.

“[The kissing contest] has been one of our most popular events,” he said. “It’s always exciting.”

So what’s Walton’s secret, if not the aforementioned beef tenderloin makeup?

“Lots of love,” she said.

Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.