By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – When it comes to hockey games, there have been some real dogs played in the Ray McDonald Sports Centre. But with the ice out for other off-season activities, the local arena offered a venue for some real dogs last weekend, and extremely talented ones at that.
Morinville’s Synergetic Surge Flyball Team hosted Alberta’s first United Flyball League International (UFLI) tournament July 31 and Aug.1, bringing in more than 200 canine athletes from around North America, including the internationally-known Touch N Go team from Las Vegas, Nevada.
Flyball, which has been referred to as drag racing for dogs, is a dog sport with four dogs to a team. Each dog shoots down a lane, jumping over four hurdles before grabbing a tennis ball from a box. The dogs then reverse course and take the ball to the starting position.
“The combined time is of each dog going over the jumps, getting their ball, coming back,” Said Candice Malvan, a member of the Synergetic Surge Team. “It’s very technical – all about timing. The dogs really enjoy it and so do the handlers.”
Malvan explained there are two primary flyball associations in North America – The North American Flyball Association and United Flyball League International.
“UFLI is actually a different organization that has never been ran in Alberta,” Malvan said. “So this is the first ever UFLI event. Because of that, Touch N Go, who are currently the world record holders of being the fastest team in the world, have come up to support us.”
The Las Vegas-based team provided a strong showing in Morinville, bringing approximately 45 dogs and 14 handlers. The team set a flyball relay record of 14.864 seconds in April of this year at an American tournament, and witnesses at the Morinville event said the team performed under the magic 15 second mark at the Morinville event.
But while the speed and thrill of the sport can be addictive to participate in and to watch, Malvan said other factors help to make the dog sport enjoyable for a wide variety of dogs and people.
“It’s good to have a team so you can go and hang out with your friends,” she said. “Dogs really enjoy it. It’s a great sport in the fact that you can be as competitive as you want – so you can be running against the world record holders. We have dogs running less than four seconds, but you can also have your regular family pet dogs that can come out and play as well. So it’s just a sport that everyone can enjoy, whether it’s being competitive or just for fun.”