The timer started, and Lad was off like a rocket.
The golden retriever threaded through a hoop, then cleared one jump, then another! And another! And — what’s that over there?
He paused, momentarily distracted by the many smells, sights and sounds that filled the arena. His handler, Peter Tooker, got him back on track after a few seconds with a quick command. Lad careened through the rest of the course, sprinting through a tunnel, riding a seesaw, traversing an elevated A-frame obstacle and weaving through a line of poles.
He was rewarded at the end with a well-earned handful of treats, which he munched down with a wagging tail.
“It was a good run,” Tooker said after walking off the course, panting as he caught his breath. “He messed up a little bit.”
Lad was one of the dozens of dogs who competed in the Mt. Hood Doberman Pinscher Club’s dog trials on Saturday. (Despite the name, the trials are open to multiple breeds.) The event kicked off Friday at the Dr. Jack Giesy Equestrian Arena at the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds in Ridgefield and will continue Sunday.
The Mt. Hood Doberman Pinscher Club operates under the umbrella of the American Kennel Club, which will hold its National Agility Championship in April.
Lad, who will be 6 years old at the end of the month, is Tooker’s first dog trained in agility. The sport has been good for them both, Tooker said, and they’re aiming to qualify for the next round in the Masters Standard class.
“I had retired, so we both needed a job,” Tooker said. “He’s type A, and he’s very athletic.”
The arena is divided into two distinct courses: the Jumpers area, which consists solely of jumps and weave poles, and the Standard area, which includes the more complex set of obstacles. Most dogs compete in both, according to event organizer Stephanie Whitchurch. She’s also participating this weekend with her 9-year-old Doberman, Jedi.
Whitchurch got started in the sport when she realized that Jedi — a member of an extremely intelligent breed that’s prone to mischief if poorly trained — needed a challenge.
“I fell madly in love with it,” she said, adding that the AKC community is extremely welcoming and supportive.
“It’s a great environment to be in a sport. You’re just competing with yourself and what you can do with your dog,” Whitchurch said.
Dot Dobie, 90, is a prolific athlete in her own right — the Clark County resident was inducted into the National Softball Hall of Fame in the 1990s. She’s also been participating in dog agility trials for around 30 years.
She wrestled over a frisbee with a border collie, Navarre, just before the duo entered the Standard arena on Saturday afternoon. According to Whitchurch, Dobie remains one of the best handlers in the region, outperforming participants in their 40s.
Dobie, for her part, takes it in stride.
“I’ve always been in sports. I had to have something to do,” she said with a shrug. “It’s fun. You’re working with a companion. They like it, and you like it.”
The Clark County Event Center is located at 17402 N.E. Delfel Road in Ridgefield. The event will resume at 9 a.m. Sunday; both parking and admission are free.