Saturday, March 14, 2009

A Snapshot of PawsAbilities, Day 1

At any one time during PawsAbilities' celebration of man's best friend, you can find a number of activities going on. With 17 rings of canine activities and over 50 vendor booths, not to mention the Paw Draw, Keystone DockDogs and Rally-O, you have plenty to choose from.

Here's a brief snapsnot of one hour of PawsAbilities.

In Demo Ring #16, the Summit Search and Rescue bloodhounds Apache and Merit demonstrate their unique abilities to follow any scent. These dogs are built for sniffing - every part of their body functions to enhance their ability to catch a scent and follow it. Their long ears, which dangle to their nose, help stir up the scent and fan it toward their nose as they're tracking. Inside their nose, bloodhounds have 200 million cells to detect smells - compare that to the 5 million cells in a human nose! Those wrinkles and flaps of skin that are so distinctive help them wiggle loose from brush and briars, and their thickly padded feet allow them to walk long distances in pursuit of a scent. During the presentation, Apache and Merit demonstrated their tracking skills, following the scent of a young volunteer around the ring. They followed the scent right to where she was hidden!

Demo Ring #14: The Appalachian Air Canines showed their frisbee skills. Many of the border collies of this group were rescued from shelters. Now their seemingly boundless energy is directed into the highly active sport of frisbee. In fact, their energetic natures makes them extremely good at frisbee. The Air Canine demonstrated some of the frisbee games they play every day. One of them is called the Dartboard Game. The handler tosses a frisbee and the dogs try to catch it. What makes it a "dartboard" game? The mat has different colored rings, like a dartboard, and the dogs must land in the "bulls-eye" after catching the frisbee. The closer to the bulls-eye they land, the more points they score.

At the end of the Main Hall, the Keystone DockDogs defy gravity as they catapult themselves off a dock into a pool, leap as far as possible. Some of the dogs seemed to hover in the air before splashing into the water. To get the dogs excited and to encourage them to leap into the water, handlers throw the dog's favorite toy into the pool. As one dog made the big leap, he snagged his toy right out of the air - mid-leap - and splashed into the pool with the toy firmly clamped in his mouth. It was quite a sight to see!

On the stage, SSD Gideon demonstrated the skills of a service dog. He retrieved a box of mac 'n' cheese, delicately picked up a pair of sunglasses, and picked up a pen, ladle and coffee mug. He even slipped under a chair to retrieve a mitten - without upsetting the chair. Many of the service dogs' skills bring a sense of safety and security to the individuals they serve. SSD Gideon can locate a cordless phone, a skill that makes individuals feel much more secure in their independence. They know that their service dog can always retrieve the phone if they need to call for assistance. SSD Gideon also demonstrated how he can shop, giving the payment to the store clerk, accepting the purchases and taking any change.

In Ring #9, pooches shimmied under the limbo stick in the Dog Olympics Doggy Limbo. With the bar down to mere inches above the ground, only the smallest dogs were squeezing underneath.

In an open space near the rings, a tired dog stretches out on the cool cement floor and gets a belly rub. Just a little piece of doggy bliss after a long morning of games and fun.

This was just a brief snapshot of some of the activities going on at any one time during the day. To truly experience the canine activity, come to PawsAbilities on Sunday. We have another impressive line-up of activities: more Keystone DockDogs, Olympic games, and demonstrations. New for Sunday will be Flyball Dogs Anonymous and the Great Biscuit Bite-Off, judged by our very own service dogs!

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