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2006-09-28 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets Joanne Anderson

Pets of the Week

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

The Team The Team 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.

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.

Tyler, purebred Lab Tyler, purebred Lab 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.

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 Cynospor- Games, 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.

Welcome to Ed Buturla- the new director at Babylon Shelter! The adoptable dogs and cats at Babylon Town Shelter (643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon have gotten into the swing of "Baseball Fever". I had to be nuts to think a playful, purebred yellow Lab would stand still, posing with both a Yankee and Mets ball in his mouth. It took about 40 minutes to get this compromise shot of 5 year old "Tyler" (Cage 47). He is a microchipped stray who did have a seizure when he first came to the shelter. His owners haven't come for him this time, so he needs a new home. See Babylon's Petfinder website.

Might not look like it, but there are more than enough kittens for a whole team in this cage. Eleven adorable cuties- calicos and orange tabbies- came in from the same home. They are now available in C- 11 &12. One of the calico tabbies is missing part of her tail. The shelter is overflowing with gorgeous cats and kittens.

Male Dogs: "Cappuccino"- the mushy Akita in Cage 43; a black Lab in Cage 9; "Cubby Bear'- the 1 year Collie mix in Cage 1; an injured longhair Chihuahua mix found at Belmont Park.

Female Dogs: a shy but sweet Belgian Malinois puppy in Cage 91; the Schipperke mix Mama in Cage 49; a tri-color Foxhound mix in Cage 93.


My "Dog Safety Program" for young kids and their parents at N. Babylon Library tonight at 7 PM. Enter the Record's "How Cute is Your Pet?" Photo Contest and possibly win tickets to the Pet Expo at the Nassau Coliseum.

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