At dog agility trials anything is 'paws-ible'

Normally Lori Visintainer's dogs enjoy their time outside. This week they've been more interested in getting into the garage.

"A dog food company brought in a shipment of samples," Visintainer said. "I put it in the garage and they are very interested in what he brought."

Visintainer and the Western Agility Group of Craig are hosting a dog agility trial contest Saturday and Sunday at the Maybell Park in Maybell. The samples are from a company in Fruita as gifts for the dogs participating.

"As far as I know, this is the first agility contest in Northwestern Colorado," Visintainer said. "We are excited to get a contest here for people interested in watching or just finding more out about the sport of dog agility."

Visintainer said the competition is adopted from equestrian events with the steeplechase pit and barriers -- just on a smaller scale for canines.

The event is sanctioned by the North American Dog Agility Council and will feature the council's organizer, Sharon Nelson. The show will serve as a fund-raiser for NADAC's championships later this year in Canada.

The competition also will allow for winners to qualify for the championship. Visintainer has three dogs she will enter and she said there would be three other local owners with dogs.

The four-legged athletes will compete on five different obstacle courses ranging from tests of leaping ability, obedience and speed. They are judged on speed, staying on the course and maneuvering through the obstacles correctly. There are three different classes of novice, open and elite.

One of Visintainer's dogs, Snippins, has won three elite titles this year and will be looking to put on a show close to home.

For anyone interested in seeing Snippins' show, there is no cost. The competition is expected to include about 40 owners expecting to run at least 80 dogs through the courses.

"If you're coming to watch, I would suggest bringing a folding chair," Visintainer said. "You can also bring your tent because most everybody will be camping out. Kind of like one of the old rock concerts."

The event is an experience that Visintainer said both the town and competitors are looking forward to.

"I think the owners will like being away from the big city atmosphere," she said. "It is more relaxing for both the dog and owner."

The town of Maybell has embraced the event and Visintainer said she hopes to see more there in the future.

"Maybell has relaxed rules for dogs in the city and is excited about hosting us," she said. "Maybe it can become an annual event."

While the number of local entrants is four, Visintainer said there is a growing local interest in dog agility.

She has a weekly class on her ranch with the help of other WAG members. She said the pioneers of dog agility in Craig were Laura Tyler and Sandra Kruczek. The two originally held beginners' classes in Centennial Mall. Now Visintainer has been involved for seven years and is holding the classes.

"They say it is the fastest growing dog sport in the country," she said. "We hope to keep that going in this area."

The event is scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m. both days, and run until 4 p.m. If the weather is warm there will be a break in the afternoon to let the dogs -- and presumably humans -- cool off.

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