This is not a cycling related post. Why would I put a noncycling post in a cycling blog? Because I am a well rounded person. (Actually, if I don’t get some more miles in, I will be a well rounded person, but that’s another post entirely.) This post is about flyball.
Not, by the way, fly ball as in a ball hit up into the air to be fielded but flyball as in a sport for dogs – kind of like doggie drag racing (without the cars, of course – that would just be silly.) If you have six minutes and 24 seconds to spare, this video does a good job of explaining it:
(Actually, even if you don't have six minutes and 24 seconds to spare, this video still does a good job of explaining it:)
I had the chance to watch flyball live recently, and it was a blast. There were several events going on at the fairgrounds, and the flyball tournament was waaaaaaaay away from everything else. I don’t know if that was for the benefit of everyone else there or for the benefit of the dogs.
We walked in, and it was loud. Imagine fifty dogs all happily barking away. There were also whistles from referees and people talking and other people shouting encouragement, all in a building with a concrete floor and walls and a ceiling that might have been designed to magnify noise.
But I forgot all about the noise as I watched the dogs. That was a treat.
I had wondered if it would be boring, watching race after race, but they were all different, thanks to the dogs, each with his or her own personality.
There was the large Jack Russell Terrier who didn’t want to play. He ran last on his team…well, he was supposed to run last on his team, but he simply wasn’t interested. In his first heat he jumped over two hurdles and then wandered off. In his second heat he jumped over four hurdles and then wandered off. They didn’t let him compete in the third heat.
There was a sheltie named Rachel. She got the ball but, as she started back, she dropped it right before jumping over the first hurdle, and then she froze. She simply stood there like a statue. You could almost hear her mind working. “Let’s see…I was supposed to get the ball and run back over the hurdles. I got the ball, but now I don’t have the ball. Where’s the ball? And what am I supposed to do now that I don’t have the ball? If I had the ball I would run back over the hurdles, but without the ball…hm…”
She did finally hear a voice behind her telling her to get the ball. She turned around, saw it, picked up and finished her run.
Rachel’s team lost that heat.
Most of the members on every team were excited. When a team's start dog came in and got ready to go, the other dogs on the team would look at him and then start barking at him, for all the world as if they were encouraging him. Go, dog, go. (I think there might be a children's book in there somewhere.)
It's a pretty high speed sport. Most of the runs took about twenty seconds or a little more, although one team was always under eighteen and usually under seventeen.
There were yorkies, shelties, poodles, boston terriers, German shepherds, labs, feists, salukis, and, of course, Australian shepherds and border collies galore, and every single one of them was friendly and happy. You’d see them between matches, and they were always ready to be petted or to lick someone. They were clearly having a great time.
I have to admit that I most enjoyed the border collies. They were ready to go, and they have a fluidty when they are in motion that is a joy to see. One team had both a border collie, who was a paragon of intense focus, and a springer spaniel who looked about as happy go lucky as a dog could look, leaping over the jumps with his ears flying foolishly about his head and a big grin on his face. They both seemed to have a good time, though perhaps in slightly different ways, and I couldn't help but imagine the conversation they might have had.
Collie: You need to be more focused.
Collie: I said, You need to be more focused.
Spaniel: Okey-dokey. Do you think that guy over there will pet me?
Collie: Focus. You're here to get the ball.
Spaniel: Flyball. Yep. Yep. Yep. What's a ball?
I want to play flyball.
Well, I want to have a dog to play flyball. I'd look rather ridiculous doing it myself.
Of course, I'm used to looking ridiculous. You should see me on the bike, after all.
See you on the road.