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Fast and furry-ous.

Byline: Kirsten Williams The Register-Guard

Cameron the Chihuahua darted into a fabric tunnel, a fast-moving lump that appeared quickly on the other side. Without missing a beat, he sprinted through a 15-station agility course in impressive time - then leaped into his owner's arms to delighted applause at the Lane Events Center.

Cameron, a small white Chihuahua, is no purse dog. He was one of the 150 competitors in the three-day Pacific Northwest Shetland Sheepdog Club's agility trials, which concluded Sunday.

Cameron's owner, Lori Sage, was one of the event organizers. She and Cameron have been entering agility trials for four years, and the finish showed that their hard work has paid off once again, even if only for practice. Cameron already has qualified for the national agility competition scheduled for March in Reno, Nev.

To qualify for nationals, a dog must complete seven "clean" runs (no mistakes or knocked-over poles) at different competitions over the course of the year to accrue at least 550 points. The agility trials in Eugene enabled dogs from the region to move closer to that goal.

During its three-day run, the all-breed dog competition tested the speed and efficiency with which the dogs completed the obstacle course. They dived through tunnels, jumped across bars set at varying heights, wove through a row of narrowly placed uprights and walked across a seesaw.

The dogs were grouped into classes based on their height at the shoulders, starting with Cameron's class of 4 inches. This meant that Pembroke Welsh Corgis were competing against basset hounds. The height of the jumps then was adjusted so that border collies could compete against golden retrievers.

Some of the dogs were practiced champions; others were just starting out.

The agility course was created by the event's only judge, Paula Ratoza of Portland. Ratoza determined the route's standard time, similar to setting a par in golf. For every second that a dog came in under that time, without knocking over any of the jumps, the dog was awarded a point.

If Cameron had not knocked down one of the poles, his time of 35 seconds on the 52-second course would have earned him 17 points. Timing is everything, and laser sensors on the course calculate the time between dogs' finishing times to less than a second.

Not all of the dogs were there to win, however.

At age 6 1/2 , gray-faced golden retriever Sahalie is just starting to compete in agility trials. Sahalie primarily works as a therapy dog for local hospitals and the University of Oregon in times of crisis, such as when a student dies. She has been working on her agility since April, when her owner, Lauri Holts, decided Sahalie needed a little help focusing.

Holts said the sport brings owners and dogs closer. While Sahalie did not have the high energy of some dogs, she was happy to lean on strangers, pressing her head against a thigh in an offer of comfort.

Phil and Liz Cooper took their two border collies, Rebus and Cully, to the event. Rebus, who is 7, has been competing since he was 15 months old. Dogs have to be at least 15 months before they can compete in agility trials under American Kennel Club rules.

Phil Cooper goes into the arena with Rebus, always running on the inside curve of the course's twists and turns to keep up with the lightning-fast collie.

Rebus enters 25 competitions a year and in the past that has included spending two summers competing in England. The intense intelligence and athletic build of a border collie makes the dog perfect for agility. The higher up the competition, the more the dogs become all black and white, Cooper said, referring to the large number of collies.

Guided by their owners' body language, their open-mouthed enthusiasm attested to their attitude.

Owners were awarded first- through fourth-place ribbons, and Rebus already had two second-place ribbons from Sunday's competition.

And while their owners are not allowed to take treats into the ring to motivate them, as soon as they were finished, the dogs were lavished with petting and praise from their owners.

Clearly pleased with Cameron's performance; Sage rubbed his ears and assured her dog that he is "a good nugget."

"The dogs just love the sport," Cooper said.

Follow Kirsten Williams on Twitter @svkwilliams. Email kirsten.williams@registerguard.com.
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Title Annotation:Local News
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Nov 27, 2017
Words:728
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