Trials display dog agility, speed

Posted: Friday, April 21, 2000

Dog fanciers can watch dog agility trials this weekend in a first for Juneau.

The trials take place from 9:30 a.m. to about 2:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday at Cope Park. The event is sponsored by the 60-member Capital Kennel Club, about 24 of whom thrive on canine agility - timed tests of speed, concentration, coordination and discipline.

``We bought some (agility) equipment a little over a year ago,'' said club member Camille Stephens. ``And we were very fortunate that Debra Gillis moved here from Anchorage about that time and became our agility instructor.''

Gillis plans to enter her aging black German shepherd. ``I thought I would just run him through some tunnels so he doesn't feel left out,'' Gillis said.

``Dogs get depressed if they can't compete. They know you're excited, they see the equipment going up. They mope in the car going, `When am I going? When am I going?'''

Trial chairwoman Jill Grose noted this will be an international event, with canine contestants coming from Whitehorse, Washington state, Las Vegas, Oregon, Ketchikan and Anchorage.

For those who have standards set by viewing the American Kennel Club's grand nationals on television, Grose suggests the standards for Cope Park should be a bit more lenient.

It's a North American Dog Agility Council-affiliated event. ``NADAC allows mixed breeds. So our dogs are a little slower,'' Grose said.

Grose is entering her West Highland white terriers. Westies weaving through a line of closely-spaced, upright sticks or ``weave poles'' are not sleek muscular beasts, but ``little tanks,'' Grose said.

The public will see pugs, bull terriers, Australian shepherds, Belgian Groendahls, German shepherds, bearded collies, border collies and other dogs struggling to stay on task. Owners must remain at least 10 feet away from their dogs while they participate in gamblers, a contest in which dogs have 45 seconds to take on as many obstacles in a course as possible.

Obstacles include jumps, open tunnels, closed tunnels, teeter-totters and weave poles. The poles look something like a slalom course, minus the snow.

Most dogs are entered in the standard course, which is not quite as demanding as gamblers, Grose said.

Spectators are asked not to use flash cameras, because bright lights can distract animal athletes.

For details, call Grose at 789-3239 in the evening.

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