Flyball Contests Growing In Popularity

FOCUS ON PETS

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Flyball is the fastest growing dog sport in the world today. There just might be more dog-sporting events than you ever imagined.

Flyball consists of teams of four dogs and is run similarly to a relay in track events. The course is 51 feet long with four jumps and the box. The dog goes over the four jumps, touches the box which then ejects a tennis ball. The dog grabs the ball, turns and again goes over the jumps back to the starting position where the next dog is waiting to be released as soon as the first one reaches the line.

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Members of the Scottsdale-based Heat Wave flyball team.

Flyball is not a quiet event. The dogs bark incessantly, waiting their turn. Although not all dogs are suitable for flyball, those that do it, love it. It takes a high-spirited, energetic, athletic dog in top condition.

There are more than 1,000 flyball teams racing in North America. These teams compete in regions, traveling probably one weekend per month. The teams and the individual dogs are working for points and titles. Dogs are placed in set positions, as relay track runners are, as some are quick starters, some are fast finishers and others are just consistently fast.

A top-ranked flyball dog lives right here in Payson. Cody, a Golden Retriever, is ranked 50th of over 600 Golden Retrievers who compete. She is a member of the Heat Wave Flyball Racing Club based in Scottsdale. Cody and her owners, Jonnie and Bill Geen, local real estate agents, head to Scottsdale every Sunday for practice. Alica Romaine, a renowned flyball trainer and competitor, moved to the Valley two years ago and immediately began building a flyball club.

Heat Wave consists of two teams, Purgatory and Monsoon.

"Having someone with Alica's experience coaching our dogs and handlers is the biggest reason for our success." Jonnie said. She is co-captain of Heat Wave. The team just returned from an event in San Diego where Heat Wave set a new team speed record and won the championship division.

Cody is not an only dog. Her housemate, Dash, also a Golden, is in training and will make her debut later this summer.

The newest member of the Geen household is Nitro, a Border Collie, who at three months of age is promising to live up to his name. These dogs receive a lot of exercise and workouts to build up their endurance. They are fed a premium diet to ensure high-quality protein and fat for maximum performance. They all love the fun and excitement of flyball and of course, they love all the time and attention they receive from Jonnie and Bill.

The Geens and their dogs do a lot of traveling. For highway travel, each dog has his/her own crate and these crates are secured in the car for safety. The two younger dogs sleep in their crates during the night but Cody, top dog, has earned special bed privileges.

Heat Wave will be participating in the "Wags for Wishes" tournament sponsored by Make a Wish Foundation, Petco and Time Warner in Del Mar, Calif. in July. This event will consist of a variety of pet events in addition to flyball including obedience, agility, confirmation, luring, herding and Jack Russell Races.

You will have the opportunity to watch these two teams practice right here in Payson, June 22. The demonstration will be in Rumsey Park ballfield # 1, near the library, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Everyone is invited and there is no charge. Certainly Cody and her friends will be delighted to answer any questions after the demonstration.

For more information about the sport of flyball, you can log on to Cody's website at http:\\ tempestkennel.homestead.com\HeatWave.html.

Christy Wrather is a columnist for the Payson Roundup. She can be reached at cpwrather@earthlink.net, or at HC1 Box 210, Strawberry, AZ 85544.

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