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Canine competitors

(ran PC edition of Pasco Times)

In Flyball, teams of dogs race down a course, jump hurdles, spring a ball loose and bring it home. The annual competition, set for this weekend in Tampa, is fast, furious and loud.

Come prepared for high energy, high jumping and loud barking. It's time for the second annual North American Flyball Association competition.

"It's like drag racing," said Wendy Pape, who along with her husband, Mike, owns the K-9 Educational Training Center of Hillsborough, or KETCH. "It is so loud we sell ear plugs."

This is the second year the competition, to be held Saturday and Sunday at KETCH, 6203 Johns Road, Suite 9, will take place in Florida. Admission is free and spectators are welcome; however, dogs are not allowed unless they are entered in the tournament.

"They're wild," said Pape of the canine competitors. "They're so intense on doing their job."

Flyball races match two teams of four dogs each, racing side by side on a 51-foot course. The dogs must make four jumps, trigger a Flyball box to release a ball, retrieve the ball and go back through the jumps. The next dog is released when the previous dog has crossed the finish line. The first team with all four dogs finishing the course without error wins the race. Many teams run all four dogs through the course in less than 20 seconds.

"After the first competition you're in such awe," Pape said. "Everybody's rooting for everybody. There's so much teamwork."

The competition will include 10 professional teams, with one team hailing from Ohio and the rest from Florida. Three teams come from KETCH, a doggie day care center in the Executive Industrial Park just off Benjamin Road.

"We've been doing Flyball for fun to get a team together," Pape said.

NAFA tournaments are divided into divisions so that teams compete against other teams of equal abilities. Titles are earned by a point system based on the speed of the team.

Pape said most of the dogs competing are family pets, a good portion of them mixed breeds.

The tournament, which runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, will be held indoors, but bring a chair if you want to sit and ear plugs if you're sensitive to noise.

"The more the frenzy, the faster the dogs go," Pape said. "They love the cheering. The louder it is for them, the better."

Directions from Waters Avenue

Turn south on Benjamin Road. Turn west on Johns Road. Go under Veteran's Expressway overpass. Turn north into second entrance of Executive Industrial Park.

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