2006-09-28 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

Pets of the Week
...by Joanne Anderson

Baseball isn't for dogs. Your dog doesn't even know about this year's possibility of a Subway Series; but sure as shootin', Fido will stay by you to root for your favorite team. You can count on pooch support. Your cat, on the other hand, could care less. That is, unless, the pennant race delays Fluffy's meal time. Rest assured- Fluffy will file a formal feline complaint.

Flyball is for dogs. Started in California in 1967 with Beth Weatherwax, the daughter of Lassie's trainer as one of the founders, flyball was originally a scent discrimination hurdle race where breed teams dressed in satin jackets performed on TV during the intermission of major sporting events. Someone tossed a tennis ball to the dogs as they finished the jump line. Now flyball is high tech, and one of the fastest growing canine sports in the world. It's popular in the US, Canada, Australia, and Europe. Locally, Doggie U K9 Academy in Bay Shore has flyball classes.

Flyball is a 4 dog relay race between competing teams. The course is 51 feet long and consists of 4 hurdles leading to the flyball box- a machine with a spring-loaded front. The dog triggers the release of the ball by stepping on the springy contraption. Each dog athlete must jump the 4 hurdles, retrieve a high flying ball from the box, return over the same hurdles, and cross the finish line. The world record for a 4 dog team (a Border Collie, Whippet, Dutch Shepherd, and Border Collie mix) is 15.22 seconds, set in Niagara Falls in 2005. Competitive canines must be trained to work as a team and stay focused despite distractions- just like our Mets and Yankees.

Lady, Cocker Spaniel Lady, Cocker Spaniel Herbert Wagner is credited with developing the mechanical flyball launcher. He did a dog demo on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson which got a lot of attention. Subsequently, training clubs became interested, and the first flyball tournament was held in Detroit/ Toronto in 1983. The next year a dozen teams in that area formed the North American Flyball Association (NAFA), still the governing body of the sport. Now NAFA has over 700 registered clubs with more than 16,000 registered dogs. The rulebook allows both purebreds and mixed breeds to enter and earn points toward titles. NAFA tournaments are separated into divisions so dogs of equal ability run against each other. The judges use a starting light system similar to those at a drag strip.

Addie, tabby cat Addie, tabby cat Jump height is determined by the smallest dog on the team- called "the height dog" who is measured at the withers, then the number is rounded to the nearest inch, and 4 inches are subtracted for the hurdle height (with a minimum of 8" and maximum of 16'). A racquetball is sometimes used instead of a tennis ball for tiny dogs. If a dog misses a jump or drops a ball before returning over the line, the dog must rerun the course until he finishes or his team forfeits. The handler must stay behind the line (unlike the manager who storms up to the pitcher's mound), and dogs that interfere with the other team, automatically lose the race for their team.

NAFA has a Hall of Fame. Each year up to 2 dogs may be inducted. NAFA members nominate canine candidates based on 3 criteria: longevity (dog must be racing in sanctioned events at least 4 years), notoriety (dog must be well known in his region), and team value. Indy Anna, another Border Collie, was the 2005 Flyball Hall of Famer. There are also Regional MVPs with selections coming from each flyball club in the 16 regions.

A Flyball World Series? Certainly, but it's only one of the fast paced events to delight spectators in the canine Olympics, actually called the World CynosportGames, which also includes championships for agility, dock jumping, and the Ashley Whippet Invitational (Frisbee). This year the Games will be held Nov. 3-5 in Scottsdale, Arizona. These canine competitors are incredible athletes. They are also great role models. To date, no dog has ever bet on flyball or lied before Congress about taking steroids.

The adoptable cats at Oyster Bay Town Shelter (677-5784) Miller Pl. Syosset have gotten into the swing of

Baseball Fever". "Addie" #452 a sweet tabby in the lobby is a fan of both teams. Meanwhile "Lady" #911, a 6 year old purebred black & tan Cocker Spaniel is too upset to think about sports. She lost her home when her owners moved.

Lady" is very sweet but afraid of the noise in the kennel. See more photos on the Oyster Bay Petfinder site. Presently the shelter has many small dogs.

Females: "Fiona" #906 and "Daisy" #511- 2 purebred Beagles; "Jewel" #891- the Cockerpoo; "Oreo" #905- a Beagle/ Pointer; "Gwen" #860- the sweet gold Shepherd mix.

Male: a scruffy Chihuahua #935. Reminder:

Enter the Post's "How Cute is Your Pet?" Photo Contest and possibly win tickets to the Pet Expo at the Nassau Coliseum.

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