This weekend, 150 dogs of all sizes, breeds and skill level gathered with their owners at Oneida Shores to compete in a dog agility trial.
“It’s just like what you see on TV — dogs going through tubes, jumping over hurdles, that kind of thing,” said Laurie Danvoice, chairperson of the event. “That’s what we do.”
The competition is in its 11th year, having taken place at Oneida Shores for the last two.
“We used to do it in Tully, but the parks people decided that they didn’t want the dogs there anymore,” Danvoice said. “We were looking for a new place and we approached Oneida Shores, and they’ve been phenomenal. It’s a very convenient location, and the big ball field is great for what we’re doing. It’s perfect.”
The event is sponsored by the Central New York Shetland Sheepdog Society, but it’s open to all breeds.
“Oh, we have all kinds of dogs,” Danvoice said. “We have every breed imaginable, from tiny little Papillons to Great Danes.”
Danvoice, who has 10 dogs herself, five of which took part in the competition, said all skill levels were represented, as well.
“We have novices and we have excellent and master dogs,” she said. “I have one — this is her first competition. We also have a dog who’ll be getting his MACH [Master Agility Champion] title.”
MACH dogs have to qualify a certain number of times and compete for a minimum of three to five years. MACH is the highest title attainable in this level of competition.
It’s titles that the dogs and their owners compete for — no real cash prizes are awarded.
“It’s a pride thing,” Danvoice said. “We compete for titles and ribbons, but there’s no big prize involved.”
The big prize, Danvoice said, is the bonding experience owners get with their dogs.
“It’s a really fun thing to do with your dog,” she said. “And the dogs love it. It’s fun for them, and it helps give them a purpose and build their confidence. I have a dog who’s blind in one eye, and she was kind of at loose ends until I started doing this with her. Now she has so much more confidence.”
Danvoice’s dogs, she said, get excited when they realize what’s coming.
“With my girls, I call it ‘doing school,'” she said. “I say, ‘Let’s do school, do you want to do school?’ And the tails just start wagging. They just love it.”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.