Jumping Through Hoops For World Competition

FOCUS ON PETS

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2006 Cynosport World Games was once again an incredible experience. Westworld in Scottsdale provides the perfect setting with acres of lush grass surrounded by low hills, perfect for spectators and spectacular scenery. The event characterizes canine sports in the Olympic spirit, exhibiting leading dog sports from around the world in a common venue.

It is the largest event of its kind in North America and the hope is to build it into the largest in the world. The dogs at Cynosports are true athletes and love what they do. They are well-trained, well-conditioned and well nourished. The majority of the dogs were border collies followed by Australian shepherds, the two breeds that live to work, but most breeds were represented.

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Freestyle Disc dogs do complete flips in the air and return to the ground with prize in tow.

The incredible part of Cynosports is seeing teams from throughout the world. Represented were Japan, Bermuda, Russia, Italy, Spain, England, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Canada and an agility judge from the Netherlands. There were dogs from almost every state in the United States.

A total count of the number of dogs taking part was not available at press time, but there were 988 dogs from eight countries in agility, 25 flyball teams and more than 60 dogs from five countries taking part in the Disc dog events.

Agility is the largest attraction of Cynosports and features the Grand Prix of Dog Agility World Championship. The best of the best competed in a wide variety of agility events including the Steeplechase, Three Dog Team Championships and the Performance National Championships. The handler has a few minutes before each event to study the course and commit it to memory and the dog then follows hand and verbal cues. Speed and accuracy are judged as the dogs maneuver over, around and through the obstacles.

Dock jumping is the fastest growing dog sport today and the dogs love it. The Splash Dogs Pro-Division finals had dogs flying more than 20 feet between leaving the dock and touching the water. They really do fly.

Well-behaved dogs and their people were invited to come try some of these dog sporting events. Many tested their dog's herding instincts on a pen full of goats. An agility course was available and instructors were on hand for those who wanted to try their dog on the equipment.

One of the most popular events -- at least for the dogs -- is Course-a-lure. The dog tears along the course, which consists of hoops, chutes, jumps, tunnels and turns, following a quickly moving rabbit-like lure. Dogs waiting in line are straining at their leashes in anticipation. Over 1,200 dog owners paid the $10 fee so their dogs could run the course. Once through the course, the dogs are hooked forever.

My favorite event at Cynosports was the freestyle disc tossing events. According to the program write-up, "Freestyle competition is the pinnacle of all disc dog events where teams showcase all of their talent and tricks in a choreographed routine set to music. The routines feature various throws, vaults and timing maneuvers in nonstop sequences and are judged in three categories: Drive and athleticism, creativity and ingenuity, and sequences and flow." The disc is what we all know as a Frisbee, but that patented word cannot be used.

The grace, beauty, agility, enthusiasm and focused attention of these dogs are amazing to watch. The team from Japan did extremely well and appeared in native dress for the awards presentation. It was very moving. However, one of the top winners in the Freestyle competition was a 67-year-old man from the U.S. His energy and flexibility were incredible and enviable. Most impressive was the announcer who spoke six languages and switched from one to the other with ease.

The World Flyball Championships drew pre-qualified teams from across the country. The top three teams were from Michigan, New England and Texas, but our Arizona teams held their own against some amazing competition.

A recent Focus on Pets column featured Nitro from Payson, owned by the Geen family. Nitro's multibreed team finished in the top 10 with a fast time of 17.33 seconds. A new record time for racing on grass was set by the championship Michigan team, with a time of 15.55. Amazing.

The Geen's other dogs also did well. Cody, a golden retriever, earned her Senior Splash Dog Title by jumping 19 feet 10 inches. Nitro, the border collie, also earned a Splash Dog Title. Dash, Geen's golden retriever and family clown, after completing her dock jump, escaped to run across the Westworld grounds, through two agility rings, to take her place in line for her true passion -- lure coursing.

Higgins, Gibson and I spent most of the weekend in the Canine Musical Freestyle area. Many people stopped by to give it a try and we had two top-notch freestylers presenting seminars. It was fun, but hot. Several fellow dog lovers from the Rim Country stopped by. It was great to see them. Next year, do not miss this spectacular event.

In the meantime, plan to attend the Payson Humane Society's Chili Supper from 4:30 to7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 14, at the Elks Lodge. Tickets are $7 for adults and $4 for children. The silent auction, 50/50 raffle and "potluck" sales are always great fun and feature wonderful gifts and prizes. The final raffle tickets for the dog quilt and the Friends of Ferals cat quilt will be sold during the evening and the winning tickets will be drawn at the end of the evening. This is a fun evening and an important fund-raiser for the Payson Humane Society. If you cannot attend, buy a ticket anyway.

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