Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Go Flyball!

It’s slim and trim and bound in blue,
Its leaves ae crisp and edged with gold,
Its words are simple, stalwart too,
Its pages scintilate with wit,
Its pathos clutches at my throat;
Oh, how I love each line of it,
That Little Book I Never Wrote.
                             - Robert W. Service

An update on Panzi:  She's decided she's not going to die after all.  The vet's visit stimulated her and she immediately started eating and drinking and purring and wanting to be petted.  So we're feeding her and giving her water and rubbing her briskly now and then.  She's gained a few ounces.  Amazing.

Working hard on Knit Your Own Murder – but I did take a break on Sunday to go to a flyball event with my sister-in-law.  I think my ears are still ringing.  It took place in an ice arena where every surface was hard and every dog present felt cheerfully driven to bark as loud and long as he could.

Flyball is a relay race run by dogs.  There are four dogs on a team, and two teams run at a time.  There are two parallel alleys with four low jumps and a box at the far end that has a slanted face and a hole at the top that holds a tennis ball.  The dog dashes over the jumps and comes to the box, slams his forepaws onto it and the ball flies out.  The dog catches it and brings it back over the jumps.  It’s a time trial, and the dogs run really, really fast back and forth.  The next dog can’t go until the first dog crosses the finish line.  There is a lengthy run-up area to the race and the trainers/owners try to release the second dog so he starts exactly as the first dog finishes – there is an electric eye in a post that records when a dog passes by the pole marking the start and finish of the race.  A whistle is blown when the second dog comes into the start while the first is still finishing.

The dogs totally get most of this and think it’s the most fun they’ve ever had.  They are wildly excited waiting their turn or even just watching from the sidelines, and the people present who didn’t bring ear protection wish they had.  An interesting thing: they don’t bring the ball back to the trainer, but drop it the instant they cross the finish line (some before they cross the line, which is a fault) and go for fake fur toys held up on a rope by their trainers, often snatching them while still running and being swung up in the air.  I think some of them would have run into the wall if the toys didn’t act as a kind of brake. 

The jumps are made of narrow boards held in slotted uprights, and more boards can be added or taken away to adjust the height.  The height is tested for every team, and is determined by the smallest dog on the team, so almost every team has a very small dog on it.  One team even had a chihuahua – and to my surprise he was among the fastest runners, though he had to jump in the air to catch the ball flying out of the slanted box and then couldn’t take it in his mouth but had to pinch into an edge of it.  But he never missed the ball once and was fast over the jumps. 

Most of the dogs are border collies, Australian shepherds or cross breeds with border collie, whippet, greyhound, or Australian shepherd blood.  But fox terriers do very well and the labs are pretty good.  A papillon surprised us by doing well, but a big, old-fashioned collie seemed to be too much of a gentleman to seriously exert himself – it was amusing to watch him hopping deliberately over the jumps rather than flying down the course like the others.  And an English spaniel tried hard but just wasn’t very fast – I think his very long ears and thickly furred legs were a handicap.  One undersized Australian shepherd was amazingly fast, he was just a blur going down the course.  I believe a rule is that you have to come back with a ball, because when a dog missed the catch, he’d spend several seconds looking for it.  And through the whole competition all the other dogs were shouting at the tops of their lungs, “Go, go, go, go, go, go, go!!”

It was fun to watch, makes me almost wish I had a dog so I could play, too.


Unknown said...

Hi! I just wanted to say how much I enjoy your posts to Killer Hobbies. I have read all your needlework mysteries and look forward to the new one.

Linda O. Johnston said...

Sounds like a delightful event for dogs!

Anonymous said...

AND a possible background for another mystery.

If you don't already have a knitting project attached to this, how about one for a knitted Sophie, the store cat!

Betty Hechtman said...

Yay for Panzi sticking around!

Monica Ferris said...

These are all great comments. My first question when acquiring an idea for a mystery is, where would you hide the body? This is a wide-open place so not in the arena - but there's the lobby, where people gather to eat a quick lunch or sit in a circle and talk. To one side are those big wire-fronted kennels where dogs sleep or rest - well, sure, a small murder victim could be curled up inside one of them. Someone brings his dog over for a rest and the dog won't go in because the kennel is full of dead body . . . Hmmmmmmm . . .