JOPLIN, Mo. —
One of the coolest things about writing this column is the opportunity it gives me to meet people who value time with their pets. I get to meet people who see their animals as more than just a pet with which they share a house.
I am a huge fan of people who take time to work with their animals and who find a connection above and beyond normal pet ownership.
I found out about three local pet owners who will travel to Tulsa from March 15 to 17 to compete in the American Kennel Club Rally National Competition, which will celebrate top dogs and trainers through a series of challenges to demonstrating teamwork.
I love this kind of thing because I have a small inkling of what people have to go through to get to that level. I like the dedication, the drive and the bond developed in that situation, and it's something that I hope I can reach at some point.
For Ronda Murphy, Jill Van Dieren and Linda Scorse, this is a chance to let their participation in the Tri-State Kennel Club of Joplin shine. The club provides scores of classes, ranging from agility to obedience and pet therapy. Murphy trains with the club and is an advocate for what training can do for a dog and its owner.
"It comes down to a little bit of everything in how dogs are trained," Murphy said. "But the most important part is that the time spent with them teaches them good behavior and enhances a strong bond."
Scorse and her border collie, Taz, will also compete next week in the agility portion of the competition. Scorse described the level of commitment that's required for getting dogs to a competitive level.
"It becomes a team sport, with one on two legs and one on four legs," Scorse said. "Win or lose, it is a relationship-building thing. You praise your dog to help motivate them because they are looking to you for support. You get to know your dog and know what you both are capable of."
The Tri-State Kennel Club facility, located at 4191 W. Cactus Lane in Joplin, has several tools available for those who want to work on agility.
"It really is nice for the dogs to train at Tri-state," Scorse said. "It was really built with their safety and happiness in mind. It really comes down to the enjoyment and the benefit to what they get out of it."
Murphy added that the agility ring was set up specifically with pets' safety in mind.
"They have the competition matting set up at the facility for them to get used to and to keep them safe," Murphy said.
As an owner, I'm excited to see something like this in our own backyard. I support even basic training for a new owner because of the benefits, but these owners have gone way above that. Murphy summed it up best when she told me how she got to that point with her dogs.
"Any dog can get to the point of competition," Murphy said. "But it is the time spent with them that teaches them good behavior. And competing is motivation to have a better bond with your pet. It is competitive, but everyone is there to motivate each other. That's what this is about."
Contact Ryan Richardson about this column or other topic suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org or 417-627-7363.