This weekend, members of the Kenai Kennel Club braved courses made treacherous by adverse weather for their shot at stocking qualifications for the 2016 American Kennel Club Agility Invitational.
For hours each day, owners and their animals ran through rain drenched grass, up slippery ramps and over high-set jumps, at the Kenai Little League Fields Sunday and will again Monday to try to rack up points and take home titles.
Sitting in a makeshift tent, under a blanket and warmed by a heater, Laura Pabst, Kenai Kennel Club instructor and event coordinator said most who showed up this weekend were hoping to make it to the national competition.
“This not ideal weather because the ground is a little wet,” she said. “Both people and dogs are a little bit at risk.”
Challenges see the courses they will run for the first time on the day of the competition, Pabst said.
They are given eight minutes to walk the routes, on which they are allowed no mistakes at this level of competition, she said.
The dogs are not judged on style or form, but must complete every obstacle cleanly.
Throughout the day, poles were periodically knocked off their holders and dogs bypassed their next obstacle and had to turn around.
Cindy Milderand, also under the protection of a dripping wet tent watched her husband, friends and many dogs she’s trained run the routes, some successfully, some who came out with failing grades. She said most of the times owners will notice the mistake that ends their chance at qualifying the route, but sometimes they don’t find out until the finish.
“Occasionally it is kind of a bummer surprise,” she said.
Many of the animals though do prefer the rain because it is refreshing and not as trying as running on a hot day, Milderand said.
Dog shows are a competition that anyone can enjoy, Milderand said. She has helped train handlers from ages 13-70 that have qualified in competitions, she said.
“More than anything it helps improve the owners relationship with their dog,” Milderand said.
The coursework is not natural for the animals, so it is up to the owners to make sure it is fun for both competitors and simultaneously a bonding experience, she said.
Reach Kelly Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org.