Agility trials showcase pooch prowess

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Linda Kipp of Las Lunas and her border collie Raisin race to the last hurdle Saturday on the jumps and weaves course at the second annual Stars and Stripes American Kennel Club Dog Agility Trials. Raisin was one of 150 dogs competing in the three-day event.

By Liliana Castillo: CNJ staff writer

With every excellent run through the jumping course Saturday, the arena erupted in applause.

Handlers and their dogs competed at the second annual Stars and Stripes American Kennel Club Dog Agility Trials at the Curry County Events Center.

They cheered each other on, offered pointers and a pat to the head for the four-legged competitors.

Douglas Morrison and Sara Kern traveled from Sedona, Ariz., for the trials.

“We came last year and we enjoyed it so much,” Morrison said. “The town Clovis gets so involved. It’s really great.”

Morrison, 60, said it’s difficult to find trials held in an indoor, air conditioned arena like the events center, especially in the summer in the Southwest.

“We will travel almost any distance in our trailer to one of these,” he said.

Morrison and Kern came with their two Dobermans, Airo and Chuqui. They are the couple’s second set of competing dogs.

Morrison said he had a champion dog that he ran with for more than 10 years. The dog died in November and the couple started over. Morrison runs an agility school in Sedona.

“Competing at a higher level gives me the credibility to train others. And it’s just fun. What better way to have fun than to go out and run around with your best friend, your dog?” Morrison said.

The three-day event is hosted by the Clovis and Portales Kennel Club and continues today, starting at 8 a.m.

A few years ago, members of the club went through obedience training with their dogs and wanted to do more with their pets. Dee Durland of Clovis pitched the idea of trying agility.

“This is something any dog, any size can do,” she said.

The event had about 150 dogs entered this year, about 50 short of last year.

Durland said there is a large United States Dog Agility Association event being held this weekend, which she said explained the drop in registration. The event attracted world champion and novice competitors from Oklahoma, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas.

Durland, 45, said having an indoor arena is invaluable.

“We used to have to squish all our events in the spring or fall,” she said.

Jaqque Johnson of Clovis entered the event for the second year. She and her two Boston terriers, Buster and Cooter, started agility about five years ago.

“(Agility) is really fun. When you watch it, you feel like ‘I can do that’ and when you get out there it’s much harder than it looks, but it gets you excited to do it,” Johnson said.

Johnson runs in the novice group. She said she advanced to the open group, the intermediate group, but said her dogs weren’t having fun.

“They were doing great in training but not when they’d get out here in the arena,” she said. “So we went back to novice. It’s about the dogs, you know.”

Those running in the excellent, or expert, group are required to get the run perfect. Any mistake translates to disqualification.

“Agility is not just about winning, it’s about having fun with your dog,” said Mike Rowley, chairman of the event. “These dogs love this. These people live with their dogs. They aren’t just trainers. A lot of people don’t win big titles, but they do it for years because it’s fun.”