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Three incredible rings at Crown Sports, Eden, MD

Agility Ring at Crown Center, Eden MD

> More pictures and details about Crown Sports Center, Eden MD

It’s hard to imagine the size of Crown Sports in Eden, Maryland until you walk in the door. Even then, it takes a while to get one’s bearings. The front door leads you down an aisle with the agility rings on the left, and restrooms, concessions, offices, an arcade, and another ring on the right. It’s just so big!

Between each agility ring are aisles that take you to the crating side of the building. At least this is how it was set up for the four-day trial I attended September 23-26, 2017. The first 2 days were sponsored by Salisbury Kennel Club, the third day by Potomac Valley Agility Club, and the fourth day was the Golden Retriever Club of America for their National Specialty.

Salisbury Kennel Club

Chair person of the SMKC agility trials
Diane Spalding, SMKC Chair

Salisbury Kennel Club expertly ran their trials with Diane Spalding as chairperson. “Our club has held trials here since 2007,” Diane said, and I’ve been chair person for them since 2010. She did an exceptional job too, especially for a not-so-typical trial with other trials backed up after them, making use of their equipment, and additional politics that went along with it.

Originally turned down

Despite some good connections with the owners of Crown Sports, the club was originally turned down when they asked if they could hold agility trials there. Dogs on their soccer turf? No way!

But never say never! Luck turned in Salsbury Kennel Club’s favor. Crown’s owner planned to install new turf in one of the rings and visited a soccer facility in Florida to inspect one that had just been installed there. To his complete surprise, a dog agility trial was being held on the new turf on the day he visited. Naturally he drilled that facility’s owner on the merits of having the dogs in, and it changed his mind.

The club now holds agility trials there in April, June, September, and over New Years. Two other clubs now hold trials at Crown Sports too.

The club boasts 160 members, and is an all breed club that focuses on purebred dogs. “Our members all pull together to make it work,” Diane said. “Not only that, but there are two other clubs that help at the trials too: Talbot Kennel Club and Bhad Georgetown. Likewise, we help at their trials which give us plenty of trials in this area!”

Agility rings

aisle between two rings used for lining up for the gate, Crown Sports, Eden MD
Aisle for gating

The first two agility rings are soccer turf with rubber infill. The turf is extremely well maintained, with no flattening whatsoever and very even distribution of pellets. There were viewing areas in each ring for those who brought their own chairs, and also bleachers along the sides of the ring.

The third ring is a no-fill soccer turf. It was still very nice to run on and I didn’t notice any slippage. The ring was smaller though, so there wasn’t room to set up chairs inside the ring. Even the gate steward stood in the narrow aisle between the end of the 2nd ring and the beginning of the third ring, while dogs lined up in the aisle too. There were bleachers along the side of that 3rd ring for viewing. It is likely that this ring was only used for the two Golden Retriever days, and that it is not in use for typical trials there. Still, it worked and made the specialty possible at that location.

Climate control

No agility location is ever perfect, and Crown Sports does have an issue with climate control. During Salisbury KC’s trial days, it was very cool in the morning, but heated up considerably in the afternoon. Some isolated rooms were cool, but the A/C just could not keep up in the agility rings and crating areas. There were large industrial fans in the crating area, and one fan in each ring, which helped.

“One of the issues is that the arcade machines generate a lot of heat,” Diane supposed. “Those won’t be used for the rest of the week, but they are used when we trial here on the weekends.”

Concessions

concessions counter with table and chairs at Crown Center, Eden MDThe concessions area was open later in the morning and closed promptly at 3 pm each day. Workers received a ticket for $2 off at the concession stand for each class worked. The early closing was not known by all workers on the 3rd trial day, and some did not get to eat lunch as a result. This was resolved the 4th day with a brilliant plan: workers could submit their order on paper, and pick up their food after they finished working their class.

The food was very good. There were egg selections for breakfast, and burgers, sandwiches and fries for lunch. If I could put in a request, it would be to add some lunch-sized salads to the menu. I’m sure they would be well received by many agility competitors, and perhaps by their other customers too.

Restrooms

Because of the very long length of the building, the walk to the restrooms at the front of the building from the crating area that we had to use is very far. It isn’t quite so far of a walk from what I suspect is the typical crating area. We just had to use a crating area farther back to reserve space for the GRCA specialty. There are also portable restrooms outside in the back of the building. Wouldn’t you know, on the last day of the trial I found restrooms in the back of the building too. They were off the Crown room, which was like a lounge/bar that wasn’t open. It had great air conditioning and numerous couches. Wish I’d found that earlier!

Overnight

There is plenty of room for overnight RV’s and campers, but no hookups. This is common at 3-day trials and perfectly acceptable. But it can be taxing at longer events, such as the national specialty. A water truck came to offer RV tank refills for those that needed them at a nominal cost. Full sewage tanks were not as simply resolved though, and required driving the RV to empty the tanks elsewhere.

Potomac Valley

Nick DeCesare, PVGRC chair person
Nick DeCesare, PVGRC Chair

Nick DeCesare chaired the one-day trial held by Potomac Valley Golden Retreiver Club out of Frederick Maryland. This was their first trial here and was held in conjuction with the GRCA national specialty. “I couldn’t believe it when I walked in here,” Nick said. “It’s an incredible place. The pictures I was sent ahead of time don’t do it justice. And they were really good pictures!”

Nick said the Frederick location where their club generally trials has seen some improvements over the years. They recently tarred part of a field for extra parking which made a big difference for everyone. Their 225 member club was founded in 1968 and do hunt, tracking, conformation and obedience in addition to agility. They hold 3 agility trials a year, in April, June and September.

Trick dog

The club offered trick dog testing for anyone who wished to add one of the new AKC trick dog titles to their dog’s award. The beginner level was relatively simple for any agility dog, especially if they already had their CGC. Also, freestyle dogs could likely achieve much higher trick dog level titles.

GRCA National Specialty

Bets Keen, chairperson for the GRCA agility trial with her Golden Retriever, Crown Center, Eden MD
Bets Keen, GRCA Chair and her Golden Retriever, Ribbon

Oh those loveable goldens! The GRCA National Specialty was proud to hold its 25th agility trial this year. Bets Keen chaired this trial, and was so busy she didn’t have time to properly run her own dog!

Bets said she’s chaired a trial once before, but mentioned that her co-chair Nick does it all the time which made things go more smoothly. “The trial went really well – and what an incredible space!”

“We were so fortunate to have the Salisbury and Talbot clubs to supply the equipment! Blue Herring members also helped out, and supplied some additional equipment,” she added

Bets was impressed with the large number of novice entries at this trial, “over 60 I believe.” She was also impressed with the great running dog and handler teams, and excellent judges. She added a sentiment shared by all trial chairs: “I’m very happy that there were no incidences.”

Awards

Donna Schmidt and her Golden Retriever Jade with large high in trial ribbon
Donna Schmidt and Jade – GRCA High in Trial Award

Everyone knows the national specialty doesn’t scrimp on the ribbons. Even the green Q ribbon is impressive. The 1st place winners also received large picture frames and the cutest squeaky crab toys, while 2nd place winners received a medium sized picture frame and crab toys.

Two awards not usually seen at agility trials are High in Trial and High in Trial Preferred. The high in trial was earned by Donna Schmidt with her dog Jade; they she also received the GRCA Excellence in Agility trophy, a rather large and quite heavy “perpetual” trophy. Huge congratulations to this magnificent team!!

Linda Flora and her dog Zap won the High in Trial Preferred. Congratulations to that team too!

 

Overall I really enjoyed trialing at Crown Sports and would like to attend a “typical” trial there one day, one that isn’t backed up to a specialty. There is plenty to do in the area, so taking a few extra days as a tourist would definitely be part of the plan!

Yellowstone Dog Sports … is this place a dream?

 

Agility Ring, Yellowstone Dog Sports, Roberts, MT

> More details about Yellowstone Dog Sports

The farthest dog agility trial location I’ve traveled to is Yellowstone Dog Sports in Roberts, Montana. The trip was coupled with a vacation, and the trial was suggested by an agility friend and now judge, Bruce Baker. Trialing and camping there was like a dream, with mountains in the backdrop and a fresh water pond with dock diving. There was even stream for the dogs to enjoy, which was narrow enough that was great therapy for a dog walking up stream.

The complex

Yellowstone Dog Sports is located on 90 acres at 7753 Hwy. 212, 8 miles north of Red Lodge, MT, and 37 miles south of Laurel. It includes sparkling clear ponds, hiking trails, sheep for herding, a 100 x 200 indoor arena, and on-site accommodations with or without RV’s. “In addition to hosting AKC and NADAC agility trials, offering dog training, and fun runs, we host multisport dog camps with top notch instructors,” owner Elaine Osmun explained. “I had it built in 2011, and it has been become very popular with the dog community.” It is definitely a unique and beautiful location that I wish were a lot closer to where I live! FYI, it is also up FOR SALE!

The trial

The trial was a four-day Labor Day Cluster held September 1-4, 2017, with Rick Fyfe judging the first two days for Gallatin Dog Club, and Diane Fyfe judging the last two days for Yellowstone Valley Kennel Club. Both clubs worked together though, so it seemed like the same trial for all four days.

Christie Leone and Russ Morrison, trial chairs
Christie Leone and Russ Morrison, trial chairs

Christie Leone was the positive, energetic trial chair for Gallatin, who also served as an excellent gate steward and sharp-eyed chair – when she wasn’t running her Bernese Mountain Dogs. Yellowstone Valley’s chair was Russ Morrison, who was the go-to person for anything that needed attention at the trial.

As I entered the building for the first time, it was Christie that sincerely welcomed me. “Crate anywhere you like!” she said, pointing to the spaces on the mat and also on dirt along the wall. “There’s plenty of space to set up.”

“We’re so lucky to have this trial location!” Christie said. “Trialing in this part of the U.S. is not like urban areas. We used to have to drive 13 hours or more to attend any trial. Things are much better now as more locations opening up.” Better, yes. But trials within 4 hours are still held only once a month as opposed to many states that offer trials almost every weekend. “Practice and lessons are often on our own,” Christie said.

Despite all that, I was impressed with the level of skill many of the handlers possessed, and their dogs were pretty fast too!

Montana air conditioning

Although the building is not air conditioned, it is well insulated. “We keep the large door along the back of the ring open part-way in the morning until it gets warmer,” Christie said. “With Montana’s cool nights and slow warm up in the morning, it stays quite comfortable in here.” She was right! It got exceptionally warm outside all four days — into the high 80’s and low 90’s — and except for late afternoon, it stayed quite comfortable indoors.

Mmm good!

Concession attendant and serving window at Christie Leone at Yellowstone Dog Sports
Friendly concessions attendant, great food!

The concessions at Yellowstone Dog Sports included both breakfast and lunch, with different choices each day. Most food was made on site, with ingredients purchased locally. You can’t get much better than that as far as food is concerned! Workers also received a $5.00 coupon for concessions after working 2 classes. This definitely encouraged workers, and also helped out the concession area.

Turf floor

The 90′ x 120′ ring is artificial turf with rubber infill, which was laid atop packed gravel, also called “fines.” It was nice to run on, but did have some lumps and unevenness throughout.

Holy MACH-a-rena!

These two clubs do compete on one thing: the best MACH/PACH ribbons and bars. And if you put them up against other clubs I’ve seen so far, both Gallatin and Yellowstone clubs beat them all hands down. They keep the ribbons under wraps during the trial though to ensure they stay exceptionally clean. So glad they brought them out for me to see and take pics. I’m truly impressed!

Quality vendors

While there are only four vendors, they were quality vendors! They included:

  • Just Meats Dog Treats – Owner Arlene Paul makes treats in Montana from Montana Meat. No additives or preservatives, these are the real thing.
  • 3 Pines Productions – Videos made of your runs, close ups like you’ve never seen.
  • The T-shirt lady – Teddy the Dog t-shirts with very cute sayings that sometimes play on words. Try “Game of Bones,” “bark side of the moon,” or “a new leash on life.”
  • Chiropractor – both a licensed human chiropractor and a certified animal chiropractor.

See more information on the vendors in the Vendors tab for Yellowstone Dog Sports. Feel free to leave reviews for these vendors too!

Accommodations like no other

You won’t be left out in the cold at night here! Yellowstone Dog Sports boasts nineteen dorm room rentals, which are attached to the main building running up and down each side. Five have private baths, while the others share bathrooms that are accessed off the same outside corridor as the rooms. Basic rooms are 10′ x 15′ and have either two single beds or one full or queen bed. Larger rooms are also available that accommodate up to 3 people.

For RV’ers, there are sites with electric hookups, as well as dry camping. Agility peeps really travel to this location too! We counted license plates from 10 states – Texas, Alaska, California, Utah, Montana, Colorado, Minnesota, Michigan, Idaho, and Wyoming – and one from Alberta, Canada. Never have I seen such a diverse mix of states at a trial! Some of us who knew the judges and had come so far really surprised them, as they didn’t expect to see any of us in Montana! The word is getting around about this place!

Charge Against Cancer

At this trial, your’s truly helped out the Charge Against Cancer canine research program by asking people to pledge an amount for their Q’s or QQ’s to fund canine cancer research. It was my first time as an ambassador for this program, and I was pleased with the generosity of some of these folks.

Diane Myers with her dog Marley at Yellowstone Dog Sports, Roberts MT
Diane Myers with her dog Marley

A special result of this effort was meeting some great people. There was Diane Myers, whose 11 year old Brittany “Marley” was recently diagnosed with a type of nasal cancer. She was told it is inoperable and there wasn’t much that could be done for her. While Marley’s prognosis on May 2nd was only 3 months, she was happily running at this trial! “I’m just taking it day by day,” Diane said, “and grateful for all the time I have with her.” Diane was taken by the Charge Against Cancer effort, and both she and her sister donated to the cause. We wish them all the best.

Then again there was a husband wife team who live in Alaska but recently purchased a home in Louisiana to stay during the winter. They’ve also dealt with cancer in some of their dogs, and were particularly impressed that 100% of the donations to Charge Against Cancer are used for canine cancer research; no admin costs siphoning away the real money. While they would have donated anyway, they earned a QQ to really top of the effort!

Room to run

In addition to all of the above, Yellowstone Dog Sports has three fenced areas for dogs to potty and play off leash. During non-trial hours, they allow “under control” dogs to run off leash. My dogs could not resist tearing through the open fields, not having this kind of freedom in a long time.

So even though I know it wasn’t a dream visiting this place, maybe the dogs think it was. Since they continually get excited during their sleep, it has to be what they’re dreaming about!

It’s all about that turf, ’bout that turf at Midland

> See more details about TNT

One of the best things about trialing at TNT in Midland, MI is its turf floor. It has just the right amount of cushioning and is oh-so-flat. As we all know, not all turf floors are created equal. I had the opportunity to chat with Lisa Lundahl, TNT’s owner, at last weekend’s trial held August 11-13, 2017. She filled me in on all the details, and I can see why TNT’s turf so great to run on!

The right installer

“The turf is a special type, similar to the turf they used at the Silverdome,” Lisa said. It was installed by Oakwood Synthetic Turf Installations in Macomb, MI. In fact, the same crew that laid the turf at the Silverdome, put down the turf at TNT. “The crew was excellent to work with. They were friendly, yet very picky about their work. I’m very pleased about that.”

It’s what’s underneath that counts

To begin the job of installing the floor, they removed about 1 1/2 feet of dirt. Then they added 4 to 6 inches of larger rocks at the bottom. That was followed by layers of broken up rocks, fine rocks, and finally sand. “They used silica sand,” Lisa explained. “Adding silica prevents the sand from clumping up when it gets wet. Good plan for an agility floor!”

After the foundation was down, the rolling and packing equipment came in, making numerous passes on the floor. When things seemed right, they laser levelled it, getting it perfectly level before finally rolling out and applying the turf itself.

Importance of crumb

The final step was spreading 2 to 4 lbs. of ‘crumb’ – the rubber pellets that give it cushion and bounce. “It was expensive,” Lisa said. “But I wanted a good floor, and I got one!”

Maintenance

Turf floors need to be maintained, and TNT makes sure their floor gets the proper attention. “We maintain it every few months,” Lisa said, “depending on use and how many trials we have.”

Why dogs slide

“When turf flattens down, dogs slide,” Lisa went on. “So it’s really important to keep it maintained. Dogs slide for other reasons though, and many people don’t understand that.” She emphasized that, “when the turf is correct, the biggest reason a dog will slide is because his handler que’d him improperly.”

Clean, spread, refresh the crumb

The maintenance process involves sweeping the hair out, and then adding more crumb. “The crumb gets redistributed with use too, so we drag it and lift up the turf to keep it looking as even as possible.”

Keeping smells away

The final step is to spray a natural, enzymatic odor remover to take away any urine smell. “We use a backpack sprayer to do a thorough job,” Lisa said. “Once that is done, it’s almost like having a brand new floor.” So agility peeps, now you can enjoy TNT’s turf floor even more, now that you realize what is really below it, how it is maintained, and why it will stay nice for a very long time. Happy Q’s to you!

Queen City Rules in Sharonville, Ohio

Agility trials at Queen City Dog Training Club (QCDTC), 12018 Tramway Drive in Sharonville, Ohio definitely rule in the area’s dog agility community. After traveling there for the Cincinnati Shetland Sheepdog Club’s trial on July 15-16, 2017, presided by Judge Gregory Beck from Durham NC, I saw first-hand the numerous jewels in QCDTC’s crown.

Erica Behnke, trial secretary and QCDTC's President, and Jane Dewey, co-secretary and Jane Dewey
Erica Behnke, trial secretary and QCDTC’s president (L); Jane Dewey, trial co-chair

“The facility didn’t get this way without a lot of heart and soul put into it by some fun and hard-working people,” according to trial co-chair Jane Dewey – my primary informant for this ‘scroll.’ “There’s a core group of 15 to 20 people who all worked together to make it happen. We’re a cohesive bunch, and we work like a well-oiled machine.”

Jane mentioned Erica Behnke, the club’s president and trial secretary. “She’s a fantastic president, an awesome leader, and has a lovely sense of humor.” She went on to include Catherine Berberich, QCDTC’s treasure, “A stickler for details, and to the club’s financial benefit!” Susan Schmidt, the trial chair, Ivan Immel on equipment, and White Bourland on maintenance are also key players. “The list goes on and on and I’ll mention them all if you give me room.”

A little history

Queen City Dog Training Club was founded in 1948 and is the oldest dog club in Cincinnatti. They purchased the existing building in 2011 and named the ring portion the “Jim Hutchins Building” in recognition of all the work he did to help purchase the property and make the location what it is today. “We were proud to name it in honor of Jim,” Jane said. “It is befitting of what he put into it.”

The new floor

Everyone was talking about the new floor, which had its debut at the previous weekend’s trial. Formerly a Dandy rubber mat floor over 3/4″ foam, the QCDTC invested no less than $50,000 to install a Grass Tex PL307 no-fill turf floor right over the original. While it took a little getting used to, my dogs and I found it a joy to run on. There were some ‘regular’ dogs who provided a bit of humor as they stepped onto it for the first time, expecting the mat floor they were used to. Sometimes we know what they are thinking, sometimes we don’t. But this was unmistakable: “What the heck is this?!”

Extra wide aisles, spacious crating

Crating, lunch tables, and vendors were in a large room separate room from the agility ring. Never have I experienced such wide aisles at an agility trial: Well marked with plenty of space to crate along the sides. This feature alone made the trial so much more enjoyable for both dog and handler. There were three rows of lunch tables sectioned off from the crating and practice jump, complete with fresh flowers and clean tablecloths. Vendors were in the back but had spacious areas, quality products, and great visibility. Had my RV not broken down earlier – which subsequently broke MY bank – I would have purchased some of their awesome products! Next time!

Climate control

Catherine Berberich, Treasurer, with Wendy (and photo bomb Tilly)

The temperatures outside were steamy, but inside QCDTC it was nice and cool as the newer-looking air conditioners worked overtime. Overhead lighting had recently been replaced too, according to Catherine Berberich, QCDTC’s treasure. “We were able to get a nice rebate on the lights, and experienced a significant drop in utility rates since they went in,” she explained. “We’re always looking for ways to save the club money.”

Parking … with club sacrifices

Ever been to a trial where the club members get all the privileges? The best crating, best parking and camping spots, best viewing seats? Not at Queen City. This club insists that their club members park across the street and keep the best spots for non-club members. How generous is that?

Best worker lunch ever

Lunch buffet with salad, numerous toppings, wraps
Typical worker lunch spread

Lunch is always appreciated at a trial, but lunch at this trial is exceptional. Not only is there a main dish – sandwiches or wraps with homemade salads or quality meat – but there’s a fantastic salad bar complete with hand chopped toppings. Add coffee, soda, water, and dessert, plus sweet rolls in the morning, and you won’t go home hungry. Kudo’s to the chef!

The club today

Today the QCDTC boasts around 480 members under 5 tiers of membership. Members are on probation for a year and get access to use the building for practice after that. There’s a $20 per year cleaning fee added to each membership too. “It works out so much better to have an outside vendor do the cleaning and distribute the cost,” according to Jane. “Just having that chore done, and done right, is huge.”

The club offers training lessons, and brings in some great speakers for seminars and workshops. In addition to agility, QCDTC promotes tracking, conformation, obedience and rally.

Some of the club’s challenges are akin to many non-profits today: it’s usually the same people taking on the hard work. “We’d like everyone to feel welcome without being pushy about asking them to work,” Jane said. “But it would sure be nice to have more key workers. We’re still working on that one.”

Great trials

QCDTC puts on three 3-day agility trials a year and three obedience and rally trials. In addition, the club hosts trials for other clubs, as opposed to simply renting out the facility. This means the same staff serve in key roles, from secretary, trial chair, and chef, to ring crew. “One of the things we’re most proud of is the quality of our trials,” Jane said. “A woman moved here from the Lexington area just to be part of the club. We’re thrilled that we’ve made that big of an impact.”

Marilyn Roth-Basinger with two Corgi's
Marilyn Roth-Basinger with Andee and Wills

“It’s my favorite place to trial,” said Marilyn Roth-Basinger, a Corgi owner and frequent participant at the Queen City trials. “They’re well organized and have really great people.” I actually met Marilyn’s husband a few days before the trial when they were camped at Winton Woods, the same campground where I’d been staying the previous week. Though reserved about her dogs then, her agility skills came out in her Corgis’ QQ’s both days! Congratulations Marilyn! I can see why you love it here so much!

Overall, QCDTC is royalty territory. They’ve capitalized on some of the most important features that agility clubs want, and are both fortunate and proud to have hard-working folks in their membership to make it all happen. QCDTC members are not in this to make money, they are in this to provide a great place to train and trial – for others and for themselves. And for all AKC clubs out there, start salivating when you see these monthly meeting stats taken from their latest newsletter:  “Sixty two Regular Members, six Associate Members and eleven Guests were in attendance.” So hail to the queen! It’s easy to see why people move nearby to be part of your kingdom!

IncrediPAWS in Pataskala OH – Another magical place

Agility Ring at IncrediPAWS, Pataskala OHMuch like TNT in Midland, Michigan, IncrediPAWS at 10465 Columbus Parkway in Pataskala, Ohio is another magical place when it comes to agility. There’s great flooring, superb climate control, top dogs, and awesome attitudes. My dogs and I went bar hopping there July 7-9, 2017 at a trial put on by the Columbus Collie Club, with judge Lynn Morgan from Scranton, Kansas. A rep from AKC was present for most of the trial.

Jenn Crank, inspiration for the magic

Jenn Crank, Owner of IncrediPAWS
Jenn Crank, Owner of IncrediPAWS

Owner Jenn Crank is the main inspiration for the magic around the place. As a top agility competitor in both the U.S. and internationally, she passes her passion and skill on to her trainers, students, and canines. “I got my first title in 1993 with a Shetland Sheepdog,” Jenn said. (That would make Jenn 6 years old at the time!) “Now agility is my life, and I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

After running Shelties as a child, Jenn got her first Border Collie at 18 and has had only two since then. “I kept asking my mom for a Border and my mom said no, no, no. I really really wanted one. So when I turned 18, I finally got one,” Jenn explained. “They’re great dogs, but as you can see, my heart is focused on Shelties.”

Jenn’s agility record is impressive. She represented the U.S. at the Agility World Championships, AKC World Team, World Agility Open, and IFCS World Championship team. She won numerous medals at many of these events. She hasn’t missed nationals since she can remember. There were more MACH bars hanging on a wall at IncrediPAWS than most clubs award over several years time. And she leaves in two weeks for the European Open in Italy taking her dogs Swift and Lucky. “I run up to 10 dogs at every home trial, but they’re not all my own,” Jenn explained. “I run for handlers who may be sick, as favors for students, and am even paid to run some dogs.”

Jenn Crank's Agility Nationals Teams banners“I actually prefer USDA over AKC,” Jenn said. “Particularly because of the QQ mentality in AKC. It rewards accuracy over risk and speed, so as handlers we’re more careful if we’re up for a QQ. That shouldn’t be the case in agility.” She still likes AKC a lot and admits that its good that the rules are different for different venues.

Building the facility

Jenn has also worked hard to build a great facility. “We held classes at a former location but it wasn’t big enough for trials,” Jenn said. “So three years ago we leased this facility.” They now hold trials there 25 to 30 weekends a year.

The agility ring has a floor made of the type of material that is used on golf course greens. It was great to run on for both my dogs and I, although scratchy on my knees when I bent down to change bar heights as a ring crew volunteer. The ring has two square poles in ring itself, measuring about a foot wide on each side including the padding. Lighting is excellent. Overall, I loved running here.

Wind beneath her wings?

Susan Crank
Susan Crank

The trial was chaired by Jenn’s mom, Susan Crank. Susan is the business manager at IncrediPAWS as well as an instructor. Her agility background is quite impressive too: 7 ADCH’s, 50+ MACH’s, member of the AKC Europeon Open and AKC World Championship Teams … the list goes on. While she did take Saturday off to go to a Jimmy Buffet concert, after which many of us wore Hawaiian shirts on Sunday, her presence at the trial was unmistakable. Not only did she earn a MACH on a student’s dog, but her upbeat, smiling attitude and encouragement was evident wherever I looked.

Crating space and viewing area – uh oh

Woman and Border Collie dog peering out of dog crate
Nita and her Border Collie Fianna make best use of crowded crating

With all that IncrediPAWS has going for it – and that is a LOT – it lacks crating space and a good viewing area. Things are congested so much that they don’t allow chairs in the crating area. While getting to and from the ring is congested enough, crating in the middle of any isle is even rougher. The viewing area is in front of the crating space, and also can be very congested with long isles. Not knowing any of this, I crated in the middle of both the viewing area and the crating area. Worst of both worlds. Constantly saying “excuse me” to get to my chair, and constantly walking my dogs through sometimes unfriendly territory to potty or run. A middle aisle in both would have helped, but also would have taken up space.

Kid friendly

Jenn has a beautiful son named Ethan who turns 3 in September. As a result, “we’re super kid friendly here!” she remarked. “If kids bother you or your dogs, this is not the place for you.” It was so fun watching Ethan help put down cones and even set bars! He has some clowns to play with too – agility men who think they are kids – playing hide and seek, tag, and other fun games while setting courses. It was entertainment for the rest of us, that’s for sure!

Training and classes

Classes are held Monday through Friday and have wait lists from 4 to 6 months out. The facility is generally busy 7:30 am until 9:30 pm. Jenn teaches the Awesome Paws Handling System developed by her coach and mentor, Linda Mecklenburg. “Some students travel several hours to get to classes,” Jenn said. “That actually works well because those handlers attend 2 hour classes every other week. It gives them more time for homework, especially if they attend a 3-day trial in between.”

All students have a spot in their class unless told otherwise. There are 6 people in every class – maybe 7 if they’re all same jump height – and she has 6 instructors now besides herself. “They all have to teach to my standards,” Jenn says. “You have to get that to be an instructor here.”

Accomplished students

Maybe I put Jenn on the spot when asking about her accomplished students since she has so many! Off hand she mentioned Kim Barton with Logan, who won the preferred 4″ dog at AKC nationals with her all American. Then there’s Roger and Abby with Dreamer on World Team. That team also went to nationals twice on the AKC team. Overall Jenn had 11 students at finals this year.

Betsey Lynch with her Papillon "Wren"
Betsey Lynch and Wren

I had the opportunity to chat with Betsey Lynch at the trial, another accomplished student of Jenn’s. Betsey’s Papillon “Wren” won USDA nationals in 2016 and 2017, and she credits Jenn’s instruction as a big part of that. Back in 1986, Betsey competed in conformation with a Rottweiler and a Bernese Mountain Dog. She was introduced to agility about 20 years ago and moved to Cavaliers that she bred herself (those boyfriend reasons you know), then got her first Papillon in 2006.

In June of this year, Wren also won the weave pole challenge at the Western Regional Incredible Dog Challenge in CA. That included 30 weaves, a tunnel, and 30 weaves back. Wren’s primary competitors for that challenge were Border Collies! “She’s a great dog, gives lots of incentive to work hard and I try to give it all back to her,” Betsy says about Wren. In one word: WOW!

Challenges

Some of Jenn’s challenges at IncrediPAWS are also strengths: Growing faster than the space they have, and offering such high quality classes that no one wants to leave. But that comes with not-so-strong challenges too. “It’s harder to get young blood in for lower level classes when those classes are not available,” Jenn says. “We only run beginning level classes once a year. There’s such high demand for the higher level classes. But that isn’t bringing in new or younger students. We need to do something about that.”

She also mentioned the challenge of getting classes in cohesive groups: evaluating where students are at and trying to group them with similar goals. “Some students are intent on competing internationally; some have lots of drive and do their homework every week; and others want a friends-type class. Great matches in class build great relationships, so I work hard to pair things right. It’s fun and rewarding, but also challenging!”

Goals

Win the lottery! Build a bigger building! GROW! No kidding, Jenn mentioned all of these. She also added that she’d like to move more into a management role at IncrediPAWS,  and have space and instructors to add more entry level classes with progression to the advanced ones. Continuing education, more seminars, and employee training are also high on her list.

She does not plan to renew her current lease for a full 3 years, but rather hopes to find a bigger space for trials, parking, dog potty areas, a second ring, and a house on same property. That sounds like a pretty big ticket, but don’t underestimate this woman. “I’m 30 years old, and will do agility for rest of my life,” she explained. “I’m in this for life, and I’d like to make it happen!”

Jenn says her best moments come when she runs a course like she should run it. Those moments are even better when she Q’s. “Taking the risk is what it’s all about,” she believes.

On a personal note, I felt lots of support for others at this trial, even in open and novice classes: Clapping, cheering, kind comments, and overall encouragement were the norm. To the last run – when most trials are quiet and most fans are long gone – people were there with support. Perhaps that is one of the most important strengths of all at this place, and certainly part of its magic.

Chillin’ in the Tropics

Four-leaf-cloverLike much of the U.S. right now, it feels a bit tropical when one walks out the door. This is ever so prominent when one is at a campground. Grateful I have A/C and a good interior fan in my 21′ RV, I still complain since I have to go out and walk the dogs several times a day. Woe is me 😉

But seriously, it has been a nice break from my previous challenges, and the dogs and I feel much better. Got a lot of work done, met some nice people, and also relaxed. A campground neighbor even gave me not one, but two four-leaf-clovers! His name is Bill and his dog is an Aussie named Ahslohe. His clan from Kentucky camped and kayaked here a few nights, then left this morning in a torrential rain/thunderstorm. They all had tents too. Not fun.

dog dish used as rain gaugeTorrential is the true word. I emptied my dogs’ water dish last night because it had bugs and grass inside. Has to be 2 3/4 ” of rain in there. It rained another 1/4″ after the picture was taken, and has been thundering – but not raining – most of the afternoon. The consistent thunder part is strange, and parents are letting their kids ride bikes and play since it seems to be farther off. I’ve made several trips to the campground’s laundry room with no fear.

It is a shame to have to leave this place tomorrow since the weather is supposed to cool down for the weekend and I’ve enjoyed my stay here. But it is farther from the weekend agility trial than I wish to drive, especially when I need to unhook and hook up on both ends. Just met a fellow camper walking Corgi’s whose wife will be at the trial on Saturday. Small, wonderful world! See you at Queen City Marilyn!

Dogs jumping at Northfield Dog Training, Ann Arbor MI

Agility trial ring at Northfield Dog Training, Ann Arbor MIThe dogs are jumping again at Northfield Dog Training in Ann Arbor, MI. Formerly an obedience- and rally-only venue, owner Adele Yunck started hosting CPE agility trials just this year. The second trial was held June 30 through July 2, 2017; my dogs and I attended the last day of the trial. It was hosted by Banda Agility Group with judge Kent Bromagen from Ohio calling the shots, err, faults.

The place is only a few miles from major retail businesses, yet truly part of the farming community. There’s a dirt drive taking you to the buildings in back of the house, with parking along the sides of the buildings as well as around the looped drive in front. Stay away from the house drive itself though. Parking is tight, but not terrible. Best leave the big rigs at home though.

Starting up the agility gears

Rita Tyler, Instructor at Northfield Dog Training, Ann Arbor MI
Rita Tyler

“We’re so pleased to offer agility here again,” said Rita Tyler, an instructor at Northfield and a major coordinator in bringing agility back to the facility. “We had agility here about 10 years ago, but things went the obedience and rally direction,” Rita said. “After Dexter closed last year there was demand for agility again.” She said they have one more agility trial scheduled in August.

“Purchasing or making all of the equipment, getting approvals from numerous organizations, adding agility classes, and being an advocate for agility’s needs are just parts of what’s involved,” she added. “It’s been a lot of work, but so worth it.”

They are also fortunate to have Terri McCardell on board, a talented instructor and craftswoman who built all of the lattice wings on the jumps as well as the fencing. “She’s fantastic,” Rita said. “At our request, she made the fencing a little taller than most are for agility.” It all looks professional, and I personally like the taller fencing, which is about 3 1/2 feet high.

“We may add two more agility trials per year, but that isn’t final yet,” Rita continued. “Unfortunately there are restrictions which make it difficult to host more events.” Apparently the township only allows them to host 10 events per year; that includes obedience, rally, agility, anything. This is because the farming community is concerned about event traffic and parking getting in the way of their tractors, equipment, and daily work.

The floor

The agility floor is rubber mat, and is a bit wavy. There are several layers of mat over sand, but no cement underneath! An agility peep there said the bottom layer is poured rubber. Something did not go well on one of the layers, thus the wavy appearance on all the layers. Although I had my doubts during the first walk-through, it actually felt good to run on this floor and the waviness didn’t affect the performance of my dogs or myself. Also my back and legs definitely let me know if a floor is too rigid. This one is just fine.

 Space

The biggest issue here is lack of space and the resulting congestion: Crating space, congestion getting into and out of the rings, and congestion in the single room that houses lunch, kitchen, map pick up, ribbon pick up, and the trial secretary.

Crating space is partly complicated by the fact that aisles are not marked. Even if that were the case, crating is at a premium. There is crating upstairs, but that got full too. And the ceiling above the ring lowers so one can only see the ring upstairs if they are sitting on the floor directly in front of the rail. There is another building that clubs can rent to crate for a not-so-nominal fee, especially since it is not air conditioned and there’s no monitor showing activity in the ring.

Climate control

The agility building is air conditioned. The day I was there it was 84 degrees with 45% humidity and bright sun. Inside was definitely cooler and more comfortable, although not as cool as other air conditioned trials I’ve attended. Could the A/C keep up on a 90 degree day with higher humidity and all those people and dogs? Probably not so much, but again, it would certainly help!

Room to run

Fenced field at Northfield Dog Training, Ann Arbor MIOn the right side of the driveway as you enter Northfield, there’s a large, mowed, fenced-in field with several gates, likely used for outdoor practice and classes. During the trial, you can unleash your dog(s) in here to potty and/or get some exercise. This is a boon for my young dog who has more energy than we can keep focused on at a trial. He actually qualified more than my seasoned dog at this trial, partly due to being able to run off some of that excitement.

World’s oldest agility peep?

Marallyn Wight and Golden Retriever Brechen
95 yr old Marallyn Wight and Brechen

A highlight of this trial for me was meeting Marallyn Wight, who turned 96 years old on July 17. And yes, she’s running agility! Marallyn’s Golden Retriever Brechin is her first agility dog, although she’s been showing dogs since the ’70’s. “I started taking lessons because agility looked like something I hadn’t tried,” she said. “I just didn’t expect Brechin to be so fast!” Marallyn and I had quite a chat, and I’ll share the rest of it with you in a future blog post. This calls for a new blog category called “Human Interest,” since many more interesting stories about agility peeps are out there just waiting to be discovered.

If you can deal with the congestion, Northfield Dog Training is a pretty nice place to trial. I plan to crate from my vehicle when visiting again to help with that end of things. It is too bad they couldn’t find a solution to keep the farmers happy that would allow more trials there, as it could help fund solutions for more crating space as well.

Superb Padded Floor at On The Run, Ham Lake MN

Agility ring at On The Run Canine Center, Ham Lake MN

> See more details about On The Run Canine Center

Never would I have believed that a padded floor could be close to turf regarding its positive effects on joints, but as the saying goes, never say never. The agility facility at On The Run Canine Center in Ham Lake MN proved me wrong when my dogs and I experienced running on their Comfort King foam mat floor. Its anti-fatigue and shock resistant properties are the best I’ve experienced on any mat, and I like it better than some turf floors.

The trial was hosted by St. Croix Valley Kennel Club on June 23-25, 2017. The club is an all breed club focused mostly on conformation, but have taken on agility too. Marjana Callery was the smiling trial chair, and she did an excellent job ensuring the trial ran like clockwork. She also shared a boatload of information with me about trialing in Minnesota. With all the opportunities here, I’d better visit more often!

Judge Katherine Rudolph gives in many ways

Katherine Rudolph was the judge on Friday, and she kindly gave up judging on Saturday and Sunday to oversee Michael H Teh and help him become a bonafide AKC judge! As many of you know, Katherine also founded Charge Against Cancer, an organization that has contributed significantly to the University of Wisconsin’s XXX. UW is making amazing progress in research, clinical trials, and bringing successful medications to market for the benefit of treating canines with cancer. Please consider a gift to Charge Against Cancer! What goes around, comes around, so help make that happen for this wonderful, giving lady.

Meet On The Run’s Owner, Michelle Schwartzbauer

On The Run Canine Center's Owner Michelle Schwartzbauer and trial chair Marjana Callery
On The Run’s Owner Michelle Schwartzbauer and trial chair Marjana Callery

The owner of On The Run, Michelle Schwartzbauer, also attended the trial. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to chat with her. She purchased the facility in 2009 and hosts AKC, CPE, USDAA and ASCA trials there. Despite no air conditioning, she hosts 35 to 38 trials per year, runs lessons year round, and conducts occasional weekend seminars.

Keeping cool with partial A/C

While the crating rooms are air conditioned, fans are used to move the air in the agility ring side of the building – both on the ceiling and on the floor. “It stays cool enough most of the time,” Michelle said. “Due to the 2 foot thick concrete walls of the building, it takes a lot of heat before it effects the gym side. I could have installed the monster ceiling fans, but people want air on the floor where they are, so I bought about 20 floor fans instead.”

The floor, the floor, the floor

Michelle also described the Comfort King floor in more detail. “It has performed very well for us,” she said. “I did a lot of research before installing it, and will likely install it again when it reaches its end of life. Hopefully that’s a few years off yet. I get many calls about it from locations that are thinking about installing a new floor, Clean Run uses it at their facility and there’s another one I know of in Tucson.” As mentioned above, it is a great floor. I cannot wait to come back and trial more here, for many reasons, but also for the floor!

Purple and orange panels aren’t just for design

In addition to focusing on the floor, Michelle also did something about noise. She installed 2 inch thick acoustical wedge panels throughout the facility that are both functional and decorative. It sure helps — no sharp barks bouncing off the walls here! For my dogs and I, it made the trial environment much less stressful.

Great equipment, custom made

Equipment is also unique at On The Run. “My husband made most of it,” Michelle said. “Then he coated them with rubberized skins. “He’s a very handy guy!” I personally felt all of the equipment was great, with the exception of the table. It is a bit dangerous to change its height if you are not familiar.

Four-acre pond to swim

4-acre pond at On The Run Canine Center, Ham Lake MNOn The Run is anxious to stay on good terms with its neighbors and clearly posts signs outside as to where one can and cannot go. “You can even let your dogs swim in the pond if you like,” Michelle said. “It’s clean enough. Just stay on our side of the water. We have plenty of frontage.”

Overall, this location has a lot going for it. Great floor, equipment, crating space, parking space, even a clean pond for dogs to swim. It is one of the top locations in Minnesota that I’ve visited so far, so be sure to put On The Run on your list if you’re travelling this way.

Some peace at last

Trees with lake behindLooking out the RV window this morning I felt a real sense of peace. To give you an idea of my gratitude, here’s a brief list of what I’ve gone through since leaving for the agility trial at IncrediPAWS in Pataskala, OH late last week:

Thursday, July 6

  • Drove from Grand Rapids Michigan to first overnight: Walmart parking lot in Reynoldsburg, Ohio.
  • There early so decided to go to the dog park. RV broke down on the way there. Had it towed after waiting 2 hours for a tow truck. Typical AAA experience for me.
  • Service center was closed. Slept in the RV at the service center (a decent area).

Friday, July 7

  • Called Uber to bring me to the trial at IncrediPAWS. Two Golden Retrievers and all my stuff. The driver got a nice tip.
  • Service center called and said it was a fuel pump but that they could not fix it because their bays were not high enough for the RV.
  • Had it towed again to a place that could fix it. AAA would not pay for the second tow bill of $225.
  • Asked new service center to keep it unlocked so I could get all my stuff out for the weekend including dog food and dishes, medications for me, clothes, everything. Wasn’t sure I could get there before the service place closed that night.
  • Rented a car and went to the RV to get my stuff. It was locked, the place was closed, and didn’t open until Monday morning.
  • Called a locksmith to break into my own vehicle.
  • Transferred stuff from the RV to the rental car in a thunderstorm.
  • Went to Red Roof Inn in Hebron, my home until the RV could be fixed on Monday. Heard it was safer than the one closer to the trial, but on the dirty side. Floor was not carpet (a good thing), but was only surface mopped and filthy.

Saturday, July 9

  • Realized some of my meds were still in the now-locked-again RV. Called the doctor to see if I could get a temporary supply. Answering service refused to call the doctor for my situation and hung up on me. Did without, very dangerously.

Monday, July 11

  • RV was fixed! Returned rental car and the nice folks at Enterprise Car Rental brought the dogs and I to go get it.
  • Fuel pump and assembly cost me over $1,000. They lowered some because of the locked RV situation.
  • Left the service place and gassed up RV in major thunderstorm, but it was almost out.
  • Drove back to hotel in torrential rain. Power was out when I arrived. Also window was leaking all over the room. Closed the curtain to keep the rain out.
  • Power came back on as I was debating whether to leave or not. All my stuff was still in the room and would not be fun to unload in that weather. Plus I wanted to use their wi-fi to upload pics for this blog in the morning.

Tuesday, July 12

  • Left the hotel for Winton Woods Campground in Cincinnati, Ohio. Planned to stay there for my work-cation before the weekend agility trial at Queen City Dog Training in Sharonville.
  • After driving a few miles, realized my gas tank was only half full. It had been siphoned overnight in Red Roof Inn’s parking lot.
  • Arrived at the campground in a thunderstorm. Holding tanks were full so emptied them at the dump station in between thunder claps.

Wednesday, July 13

  • Woke up to the beautiful view in the image above, taken from my RV spot at the campground.

Thank you God. You have my attention. You can stop blessing me with so many challenges to remind me to talk to you now! Or not. As always, it’s your call.

New directions

Until now, this blog has focused on agility trial locations and businesses near those locations, such as restaurants, hotels, and fun places for dogs. It generally runs a week behind when I’m on the road because adding things to the back end of the site take so much time. It also doesn’t really cover what I’m going through, which may or may not be of interest to you agility peeps, but nonetheless are part of the journey. The above image gives a clue.

I’d like to move into a direction where things are more current and truly cover my travels. As a result, some posts will start to take on a more personal nature. They will be shorter when that happens, and hopefully worth the read for you. All will be more current. The backend info will go up with I’m not on the road and have time to process all the images.

Please stay with me as this blog moves forward. If you know anything about me, perseverence is in my nature. This won’t be a website/blog that starts and then just dwindles down. At least if at all possible. Stay tuned for future, interesting posts. Please comment if you feel so inclined!!

Your agility friend,
– Bev