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Dog club celebrates 50 years of teamwork.

Byline: Andrea Damewood The Register-Guard

ELMIRA - After 50 years, this old dog club still has plenty of new tricks.

Members of the Emerald Dog Obedience Club capped the second day of showing their stuff Sunday at the group's obedience trials.

Four-legged friends of all breeds joined owners of all shapes and sizes at Elmira Elementary School to perform the most basic commands (sit, stay) and also some tricks the average dog owner could never see their couch-surfing pup doing, such as sniffing out items with their owner's scent, or leaping 32-inch high hurdles.

While top dogs get prizes that include trophies, ribbons and toys, members say the stunts are all about strengthening the bonds between dog and human.

"Some of us don't care about high scores - it's just nice to have worked together," member Sue Mills said. "It's a teamwork thing."

Mills should know: The Elmira resident has been training dogs since she was 10 years old, when she borrowed her neighbor's pets to teach. After 51 years as both a professional trainer and a hobbyist, the full-time employee at Holt International still finds time to train her flock of four Belgian tervurens.

Teachingdogs manners can be the key to keeping them out of shelters, and takes very little time, Mills said.

"TV commercials are made for training, ideally you work a few minutes every day," she said.

During the past 50 years, Mills said, the way dogs are trained has changed tremendously, and helped attract new followers.

"I think the biggest and best change has been it's gone to a more positive approach," she said. "Instead of jerking (the leash) to teach it what to do, you motivate the dog."

Training can begin as early as six weeks, Mills said, and despite the adage, an elderly dog can learn a thing or two. "I've seen a 78-year-old gentleman and his 12-year-old dog do very well," Mills said.

While many of the obedience stars are purebreds, a few at Sunday's trials had been rescued from shelters, including an American Staffordshire terrier rescued after Hurricane Katrina, and Casey, a Labrador collected from Reno, Nev.

When Casey, who had been repossessed twice before age 1, was picked up by Gary Foster and his wife, she had no shelter or water in the 100-degree heat, Foster said. The dog was scared of everyone, he said. But the dog transformed after working with his wife and fellow club member Nancy Moser three or four times a week.

Sunday, Casey claimed the top spot in the advanced rally class, where the owner encourages and guides the dog through obedience stations while being evaluated by a judge.

"The way Nancy is with people and animals, (Casey) just came around and now she just loves it," Foster said, beaming. "She's the best."

Moser, a Junction City resident, has been involved in the dog community for 30 years. She said she was honored to be part of the anniversary celebration.

The longevity of the club is a testament to the dedication of its members.

"It's very, very dedicated to the dog fancier," Moser said. "Once you have a competitive spirit, it's just a way to enjoy the dogs. If it's where your dog belongs, it's what they want to do."
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Title Annotation:City/Region; Emerald Dog Obedience Club marks a milestone as it offers a weekend of events for poochesof all breeds and nonbreeds
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jun 16, 2008
Words:542
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