Canines compete in North Shelby dog show

Published 5:06 pm Friday, June 12, 2009

This past weekend, the Sports Blast on U.S. 280 was transformed into a puppy playground.

The Birmingham Obedience Training Club hosted the area’s first agility trials sanctioned by the American Kennel Club.

In agility trials, dogs and handlers navigate obstacle courses they’ve never seen before in hopes of snagging a coveted ribbon.

Judy Johnston, a BOTC committee member, said the club expected to see 200 handlers and about 300 dogs. Many more came to watch the show, she said.

“Everybody’s happy because we have a location in Birmingham,” she said. “It’s good for the city as well as for the club.”

Kathy DeLucas of Birmingham said she and her husband own seven dogs, four of which ran in last weekend’s show.

“I love it. The connection you have with your dog, and the working with each other,” she said. “It’s an adrenaline rush when you run with your dog.”

DeLucas, who has a physical disability that prevents her from walking very much, said working with her dogs gives her the motivation to continue moving around.

“I have always loved animals and dogs, and decided that was one way to get out and get going,” she said.

She said she can’t run beside her dogs like most handlers do, but they’ve learned to adapt. They watch her shoulders, and her movements alert them what to do next. Even with that disadvantage, one of her dogs, Radar, a Chelsea sheepdog, is one of the top agility dogs in the country.

“It’s kind of a dance between you and your dog,” DeLucas said. “There’s an art to it.”

Johnston said she loves to see the relationships between handlers at the dog shows.

“Everybody is a big family. We all support each other,” she said. “if a dog has a great run, we’re all excited. If a dog makes mistakes, everybody says ‘It’s OK.’”