By Kevin Wilson: Freedom New Mexico
This weekend at the Curry County Special Events Center, it’s a dog’s life.
More than 300 canines will be featured Friday, Saturday and Sunday as the Clovis-Portales Kennel Club holds its first American Kennel Club-sanctioned Stars and Stripes dog agility trial.
Admission is free, with shows starting 8 a.m. sharp.
Mike Rowley, vice president of CPKC, said the event features many of the best dogs in the country, including a former AKC national champion.
Dogs generally have three different types of competition — confirmation (appearance), obedience and agility.
The agility events are a dog’s equivalent of a track meet, Rowley said, with a series of jumps, weaving courses, see-saws and tunnels.
“It’s a sport where a dog and a handler compete for speed and perfection to go through these very complicated obstacle courses,” Rowley said. “The whole idea is to beat the clock.”
Each day, Rowley said, there will be 330 dogs competing, starting with dogs in the excellent category. The competition moves to open, then novice. The difference in the divisions is that the judges allow less margin for error.
Before dogs compete, their handler — who is usually the dog’s owner as well — gets a map and does a walkthrough of the course, which varies in what obstacles are used and where they are placed.
The dog doesn’t see the course until they’re racing and the handler gives them verbal and physical cues.
“You’ve got to have a lot of trust,” said Kevin Littlejohn of Clovis, who is looking forward to entering Jersey, a half pit bull, half cattle dog. “You’ve got to trust them as much as they trust you.”
Rowley said this is the first year mixed breeds like Jersey can enter under AKC rules, something he thinks will open the sport up to newcomers.
With that in mind, others in the 20-member local kennel club stress the time investment required — usually years of obedience training.
Jaqque Johnson, who is entering Buster and Cooter — two Boston terrier brothers — said she recommends obedience training to anybody who has a dog, and more so for people looking to compete.
“It takes a lot to build up to do it,” Johnson said. “If you don’t have the proper training, you could injure your dog trying to do something you saw on TV.”
But the payoff comes when it’s race time.
“She likes the obstacles, she likes the jumps,” Littlejohn said of Jersey. “It’s just a lot of exercise for her.”
Kennel members said they have been building up to the agility trials for three years, and have anxiously awaited the completion of the events center. Before, Johnson said, members would have to go to Lubbock, Amarillo and Albuquerque and would need the help of other kennel clubs to organize events.
“ I think it’s magnificent,” Johnson said. “I think it’s wonderful Clovis has a place to do this.”
What: American Kennel Club Stars and Stripes dog agility trial
When: 8 a.m. to approximately 4 p.m. Friday-Sunday
Where: Curry County Special Events Center
• No flash photography
• No dogs allowed at the fairgrounds unless they are officially entered to compete
• No spectators allowed on the event floor
• No petting dogs without permission of the owner-handler