SHERIDAN — Cel Hope didn’t want to, but rather, she had to. She let her passion of dog agility competition simply drift away.
The Sheridan resident couldn’t continue to drive 100s of miles with multiple dogs contending in the sport. This past weekend, however, allowed Hope to rediscover her love for dog agility — locally.
Hope introduced multiple dogs to the competitive arena as the North American Dog Agility Council held a fundraiser competition at the Sheridan College AgriPark over the weekend.
“I’m thrilled we have one here in Sheridan,” Hope said. “It was Mercy’s first-ever show (Friday). She didn’t qualify her first two runs, but it’s mainly about just having fun and falling in love with the sport.”
Last weekend marked the first dog agility event in Sheridan in a decade. Enthusiasts from states all over the West parked their RVs and automobiles, corralled their kennels and dog treats and staked out a spot inside the Agripark.
Jodi Dillard — the coordinator of the NADAC fundraiser — got the ball rolling for the event. The owner of Up and Over Agility moved to Sheridan from California more than a decade ago. She picked up the sport of dog agility in her time on the West Coast as a way to build a relationship with her border collie.
“It was something to do with her,” Dillard said. “When we moved here 12 years ago and I found a trainer here in town it just started and it just took off. I became addicted and now it’s a passion.”
Dillard’s passion blossomed into her instructional classes for aspiring dog-agility competitors. Any breed of canine can partake in the sport that has beneficial outcomes for both the owner and the dog.
“When [Dillard] said she was going to do classes, I said, ‘Sign me up,’” Hope said. “It’s a lot of fun. It’s a great activity for a person to do with their dog. It’s a great confidence builder for the dog, and it really improves the bond between the human and the dog.”
The weekend featured three days of competition for four classes of dogs — elite, open, novice and intro. Dogs of all different shapes, sizes and ages ran through obstacle courses featuring hurdles and tunnels. In order to partake in the event, all contestants must have some level of training prior to entering.
The weekend was NADAC-sanctioned, meaning dogs could earn qualifying times that go toward the championships held in Gillette in late September. Participants also contended for awards Saturday, and all their entree fees will feed into a pool of money for trophies given away at the championships in a couple months.
The fundraiser was well received in its return to Sheridan. At the conclusion Saturday, the competition had seen more than 1,000 runs where an average dog agility fundraiser in the region will get about 500 runs.
“This is an amazing turnout,” Dillard said. “To reach 1,000 runs is pretty incredible.”
After years without competition, the weekend’s event brought dogs and owners back to Sheridan for some canine-related fun.