Watch Flyball in action at North Rumsey Park on Saturday, June 12 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.. The practice will be in one of the back ball fields, but just follow the sound of the barking dogs. They make a lot of racket as they impatiently wait their turn.
Flyball is a relay race with four dogs to a team and two teams racing against each other. Each dog runs 61 feet from the starting point over four jumps to the box. There he activates the lever on the box which ejects a tennis ball. The dog must catch the ball in mid air, turn and go back over the four jumps to the starting point. As he crosses the finish line, the next dog is released. The fastest team wins.
The Heatwave Flyball Team is ranked second in the western United States and 22nd overall in the country out of 1,300 teams in the North American Flyball Association. Heatwave was formed three years ago by renowned flyball trainer, Alisa Romaine in Scottsdale.Jonnie and Bill Geen, co-captains of the team, live in Payson and travel with their three dogs to the Valley regularly for practice and to tournaments once a month all over the Southwest. ody, their Golden Retriever, is ranked 38th in the world. Dash, another golden, does not take it all too seriously but the baby, a Border Collie named Nitro, is on his way to being top dog. The team often practices in Rumsey Park during the summer. You are welcome to watch. The team is constantly working to break their own record of 17.01 seconds.
If you have never seen Flyball, you must. It is fun and amazing. These dogs absolutely love what they do. Their goal is to win and they thrive on a supportive and cheering audience.
Switching to another fun dog and handler activity, Higgins and I just returned from a Canine Musical Freestyle workshop in Tucson presented by Sandra Davis and her Border Collie, Pepper. One of the top freestyle teams in the world, many have seen them on the pet channels.
Freestyle began in 1991 in Canada and is now practiced all over the world. Popular in the east, it is moving steadily westward. In the early years, top teams did demonstrations wherever they could find an audience. Now there are competitions where teams work for degrees and points. Teams can also compete by sending videos which adds an international flare.
Musical Freestyle is moving to music with your dog. There are 20 basic moves, each having a name. There are parallel moves, circular moves and flashy moves. The dog spins in both directions in front or beside you, circles around you and weaves through your legs. He also jumps over your legs and arms and backs up.
Distance moves have the dog doing all these moves 10 to 20 feet away. These become the flashy moves and are thrilling to watch.
The music must fit the action of the dog, whether he is large and slow moving or a hyperactive Border Collie. The moves are put together to form routines, which are generally two to three minutes in length and are staged for the available space.
Demonstrations are done in nursing homes, hospitals and schools and are always crowd pleasers. Dogs love musical freestyle.
Sandra Davis said dogs have such a great ability to learn, but so often are not challenged. A freestyle routine can be simple or complex, depending on the ambition of the dog and handler.
There are Canine Musical Freestyle groups established now in both Phoenix and Tucson.
A lot of information is available over the Internet. Contact me for more information or a demonstration.
Christy Wrather is a columnist for the Payson Roundup. She can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com or by snail mail at HC1 Box 210, Strawberry, AZ 85544.