The timer started and Lad was like a rocket.
The golden retriever threaded its way through a hoop, then jumped, then jumped again! And another! And – what’s that over there?
He paused, distracted for a moment by the many smells, sights, and sounds that filled the arena. His dog handler Peter Tooker got him back on track after a few seconds with a quick command. The boy sped the rest of the way, sprinted through a tunnel, rode a seesaw, crossed a raised A-frame obstacle, and snaked through a series of poles.
In the end, he was rewarded with a well-deserved handful of goodies, which he chewed down with a wag of his tail.
“It was a good run,” said Tooker after leaving the track, panting as he caught his breath. “He messed up a bit.”
Lad was one of dozens of dogs that participated in the Mt. Hood Doberman Pinscher Club dog trials on Saturday. (Despite the name, the trials are open to multiple breeds.) The event began on Friday in the Dr. Jack Giesy Equestrian Arena at the Clark County Event Center at the Ridgefield Exhibition Center and continues on Sunday.
The Mt. Hood Doberman Pinscher Club operates under the umbrella of the American Kennel Club, which will host its National Agility Championship in April.
Lad, who turns 6 by the end of the month, is Tooker’s first dog to be trained in agility. The sport has done both of them good, Tooker said, and they are aiming to qualify for the next round in the Masters Standard class.
“I was retired so we both needed a job,” said Tooker. “He’s type A and very athletic.”
The arena is divided into two different courses: the jumpers area, which consists only of jumps and looms, and the standard area, which includes the more complex obstacles. Most dogs take part in both, according to the organizer, Stephanie Whitchurch. She is also attending this weekend with her 9 year old Doberman Jedi.
Whitchurch took up the sport when she realized that Jedi – a member of an extremely intelligent race prone to mischief if poorly trained – needed a challenge.
“I fell madly in love with her,” she said, adding that the AKC community is extremely hospitable and supportive.
â€œIt’s a great environment to be in a sport. You are only competing with yourself and what you can do with your dog, â€said Whitchurch.
Dot Dobie, 90, is a prolific athlete herself – the Clark County resident was inducted into the National Softball Hall of Fame in the 1990s. She has also been taking part in agility experiments with dogs for around 30 years.
She was wrestling for a frisbee with a border collie, Navarre, just before the duo entered the Standard Arena on Saturday afternoon. According to Whitchurch, Dobie remains one of the top handlers in the area, outperforming contestants over 40.
Dobie, for her part, takes it easy.
â€œI’ve always been in sports. I had to be busy, â€she said with a shrug. “It’s fun. You work with a companion. You like it and you like it.”
The Clark County Event Center is located at 17402 NE Delfel Road in Ridgefield. The event will continue on Sunday at 9 a.m. Parking and entry are free.