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Wal-Mart Challenge Draws Wacky Products

Parija Kavilanz

For the first time, the world's largest retailer is giving any small business, entrepreneur or individual inventor a shot at winning a spot on its store shelves nationwide and virtual shelf space through walmart.com. The contest is called "Get on the shelf." The competition has pulled in 4,000 entries. Here's a sampling of a few creative ones vying to win the grand prize.

A fork for dogs

Company: My Best Friend's Fork
Price: $18.99

Val Arnold, who calls her two Rottweilers her "two children," would often feed them vitamins and table food off of her own fork. One day, one of the dogs snatched the fork from her hand and wouldn't let go. That scare got Arnold quickly searching online for a safer animal-friendly "fork."

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Instead, she found many images of x-rays of dogs that had accidentally swallowed forks. Tired of searching, she decided to invent a dog-friendly fork. She started selling the product in January. She said the curved handle of her fork prevents it from getting pulled from the hand. Her doggie forks offer a lifetime warranty, and some even come embellished with pink, blue and clear Swarovski crystals.

Your own mini tent

Company: Under The Weather
Price: $69.95

Like many soccer dads and moms, Rick Pescovitz found himself attending several of his kids' tournaments year-round. Many times, he and other parents sat through games with teeth chattering, drenched in rain or shivering in cold temperatures. "Once we were in a town in Virginia for a game. It was windy and freezing. I thought this was crazy," he said.

On the drive back home, Pescovitz was inspired by portable toilets he saw at the game and mentally sketched a fully-enclosed portable tent that could fit a folding chair. That idea resulted in the "Under The Weather" tent, which he launched in late 2011. Pescovitz is currently selling the tent online and soon at soccer events. He's also working on the next iterations of the tent -- heated ones and tents that connect together to fit two people.

Sweet-smelling sports bag

Company: ScentFan Duffle
Price: $49.99 to $79.99

Eddie McKenzie said his two daughters inspired him two years ago to come up with the idea of creating a sports duffle bag with a fan built into it.

"My daughters play a lot of sports, and they don't wear socks with their shoes," he said. "Their feet would smell bad, their shoes would smell bad, and their sports bags would smell, too."

Tired of dealing with smelly clothes and eventually a smelly closet that stored their sports bags, McKenzie did something about it. He noticed how his wife would turn on the fan after she did the laundry to dry out the clothes. So he created a duffle bag with a built-in cigarette lighter plug.

"Plug it in to your car when travelling and it gets to work," he said. On the end of the bag, he said users can put a scented sachet and the fan will spread the scent throughout the bag.

A clock that talks to you

Company: Oishi Time Talking Dolls

Oran Elmaleh and his wife Jayde conceptualized the idea of a squeezable, talking clock and alarm clock when they were on their honeymoon in Hawaii. "I hated the idea of being woken up by a loud alarm clock," he said. "I thought wouldn't it be great to have something that could gently tell you the time?"

So he created a line of six squeezable talking clocks with different chimes that fit under or in your pillow. You squeeze it and the doll will tell you what time it is. "You can also program each doll as an alarm clock," he said. "Oishi is a word that my wife and I use for something we love." The dolls are already sold online and in a few stores.

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Decorative toaster cover

Company: Toaster Tops
Price: $9.95 to $19.95

Julie Condy was grossed out when her husband sprayed the kitchen counter with ant spray and got too close to her toaster.

"I was putting bread in the toaster shortly after and thought it was disgusting if some of the spray had gotten into it," she said. So she jumped online to look for a cover for the toaster slots. But she couldn't find one.

Last July, she started working on Toaster Tops, decorative plate covers for two-and-four-slot toasters that feature fun knobs on top. "They keep the toaster clean and decorate the kitchen at the same time," she said. The knobs are interchangeable, featuring cheeky themes, such as "Cocktail ladies and shopping" and other life events, such as weddings and graduation. Condy's been selling her Toaster Tops online since January. "I'm trying to see if I can make some for college and pro teams now," she said.

Cool water for your dogs

Company: FrostyBowlz
Price: $26.99

Inventor Jeff Brown said his miniature poodle Jager inspired him to come up with "FrostyBowls." Jager didn't like to drink a lot of water in the summer, because the water would become warm. But he would lap up water from the fridge.

"I would put ice cubes in his bowl, but they didn't last long," he said. "It made sense to me, I like cool water, why wouldn't he?"

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Two years ago, he started on a prototype for FrostyBowlz -- a stainless steel dog bowl that opens up to fit a freezable non-toxic gel inside -- to keep your pooch's water cool for longer periods. He launched FrostyBowlz four weeks ago at an industry event and is now looking to sell it through major retailers.