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Canines soar in flyball exercise

Canines soar in flyball exercise

August 07, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

SHARPSBURG - Lunging, half-crazed and trembling with excitement, 3-year-old Teller could barely wait his turn during a round of play Sunday.

"He thinks this is what life is about," said Dee Lozupone, as she held the dog during a practice match of flyball in a building at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center.

Lozupone and a handful of other dog enthusiasts and their animals meet when they can on Sundays and Tuesdays to practice flyball. During the game, one dog races down a 51-foot track, jumping over hurdles to retrieve a ball from a box and return to its handler.

While Teller vibrated in anticipation of being released down the track, young Mattie slept between her owner's feet.

A Bichon frise, Mattie was not born with the energetic temperament of some competitors, explained her owner, K.C. Combs of Hagerstown.

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"She kind of knows the difference between practice and the real thing, too," Combs said.

The Corporal Punishment team, which is made up of some members of the Mason & Dixon Kennel Club, competes mostly regionally, Lozupone said. In flyball, dogs perform in relay teams of four, and their group time determines the competition's winner, she said.

The height of the smallest dog on the team determines how high the hurdles are set, said Lozupone, who travels with her three whippets from Boyds, Md., to practice.

"If you see him around the house, he's pretty laid-back, quiet, comatose coach-potato. But you put him around this, he's crazy," Lozupone said above Teller's incessant barking.

Whether fast or slow, each dog returned to cheers and a treat during the session.

For Vinny, who still is learning the game, meeting new friends seemed reward enough.

The mixed-breed terrier performed a few good runs before letting the distractions of other dogs and dog lovers overwhelm him.

"He's a really good kid. He's a happy camper. He loves everybody," trainer Renee Nappier said.

Ribbons hung from the rear-view mirror and dog toys littered the dashboard of Nappier's van. In the back, dogs in crates barked and whined for attention and a chance to show their skills.

Inside the fairgrounds building, Nappier said she looks for energy and intelligence when she adopts new dogs. Beside flyball, she said she also trains dogs to compete in agility and obedience trials. One way or another, she said her dogs must show willingness to compete.

"If you live with me, you're going to have to," Nappier said.

Among her dogs, it isn't hard to find someone to play, she said.

"My dogs are all sitting there with their hands up, saying, 'Pick me, pick me,' which makes it fun," she said.

According to Nappier, who refused to say how many dogs she owns, the Corporal Punishment team always is looking for a good members - human and otherwise.

She filled dog dishes with ice as she prepared to leave practice.

"I've been fortunate," she said. "I have had some good dogs ... I can only be the best trainer that I can be. And they have tried to be the best dogs that they can be, which is a good thing ... Yeah, dogs are pretty cool."




Recruiting for flyball



The Corporal Punishment team is looking for dogs and their owners to learn the sport of flyball.

According to team captain Renee Nappier, a Frederick, Md., dog trainer and breeder, dogs that love balls and can behave well around humans and other dogs are welcome to learn the sport during flyball classes from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center.

Team members practice at the facility before the class and on Sundays, Nappier said.

Class sessions costs $13 per hour or $75 for six weeks, Nappier said. Dogs' aptitude and desire to learn the sport varies, she said.

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