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Event Report: GO! Dog Agility, San Diego

A great surface, terrific weather, fun atmosphere and agility enthusiasts from around the southwest supported their inaugural event. By Tamar Fuhrer

What do you get when you combine a handful of agility enthusiasts, a desire for USDAA in the area and a beautiful backdrop? GO! Dog Agility. 

When San Diego, CA area agility clubs stopped hosting USDAA trials back in 2013, locals had to pack up their dogs and drive to the Los Angeles and Ventura areas. If you've ever driven in LA, you know this would often require overnight hotel visits. 

Then a group of likeminded competitors formed GO! and hosted their first trial in Oceanside, CA this past June.

Meha Harthill's Bearded Collie, Zuri, enjoying GO! Dog Agility's inaugural event.
Photo courtesy of Caroline Fenton Photography

GO! was created for the obvious function to have USDAA trials back in San Diego County. The additional motivation, however, was to create a club that was warm and welcoming to newcomers and also would encourage participation in USDAA overall. 

"One of the flagship principles of our club is to be inclusive and FUN!", said Liz Randall, one of the founding Board members and a Trial Co-Chair. 

Jean Eichenlaub, another founding Board member, led the charge to develop GO! As she says, "I was talking to people I knew were interested in USDAA. There was a definite interest by enough people to make it a viable activity."

Liz added that the new club "formed very organically. It was a large group effort. We have a loose Board of Directors and anyone who wants to be a member can be a member."

The large group effort reached beyond the GO! members and into the larger agility community. Jean pointed out that her focus [was] on getting a test off the ground and worry about fine-tuning later. 

With limited resources, this meant securing a site, equipment, judges and learning the ins and outs of running a show in a matter of months. To that effect, Jean and Liz both praised the willingness of others to pitch in. DASH, an Orange County, CA based club, rented GO! their equipment and timers. 

Members found a local community college, Mira Costa, with immaculate grounds and a willingness to experiment with a dog show, Jean said. The club hired seasoned judges, securing Lisa Jarvis for Masters classes and Matt Palmieri for Starters and Advanced classes.  

Visiting competitors jumped in wherever they could, such as Arizona-based Kim OConnor working hard at the score table and even stepping into judge the final class of the day on Sunday. The club also hosted a Snooker workshop before the show to get newcomers excited about one of the more mind-boggling classes. Another founding GO! member, Kerry Stevenson, got the local agility crowd excited with flashy and fun posters advertising the event. 

Weeks before the trial, GO! was happy to see they were going to have more entries than expected  including a particularly large Starters class. But how was their first event going to pan out with so many elements yet untested?

The answer? A resounding success! Competitors noticed the care put into finding a well situated and maintained site.

Kim Lohman's Aussie, Chloe enjoyed competing at the site.
Photo courtesy of Caroline Fenton Photography.

"The site was my favorite part of the trial," said Maureen Hughes of Tempe, AZ, who attended with her dog, Tigger. "The grass was beautiful and there were plenty of places to walk around between runs." 

Deb Davidson Harpur, who came from Harbor City, CA with her Rat Terriers and Border Collies agreed, "The show site was smooth and wonderful to run on. The judges put out exciting and challenging courses, and everyone enjoyed a fantastic Hospitality spread."

GO! put fun touches on their inaugural event, with a beach-themed photo booth and extra awards. "We tried to offer things  from hospitality to the awards and the photo booth that were different and memorable from what we all get used to seeing every weekend," Liz said. 

A generation of Border Collies posing at the photo booth.

The Willis and Rickie Roo decked out
at the photo booth.

Kim and Deb both pointed out their excitement with the placement pins, awarded in lieu of ribbons. Placements in Tournament classes were awarded medals. GO! also had awards for accomplishments such as High in Trial and Top Junior Handler.  

Top Junior Handler, Katie Masten posing with Gigi
(owned by Deb Davidson-Harpur) and Jean Eichenlaub.
Photo courtesy of Caroline Fenton Photography.

Even while working hard, the GO! members had time to enjoy the event too. Liz said, "It was just really enjoyable. No one knew what to expect, but so many people took a chance on our club. The vibe was just as we hoped... extremely upbeat, positive and supportive." 

But there's no rest for the GO! squad just yet. Jean noted that they are currently organizing their next show, to be held in January 2016. They also hope to continue to offer workshops to keep people engaged and learning new components of agility.

Both Jean and Liz, on behalf of GO! want to thank everyone who attended their inaugural event. Competitors who attended are just as thankful for having USDAA back in San Diego, brandishing GO!s Facebook page with praise on the fun event. 

Tamar Fuhrer lives in the Los Angeles, California area, where she works as a Transportation Planning Manager for Metro, Los Angeles County's transit agency. She began training in Agility in 2012 with her first dog, All-American, Murray (affectionately known in the Southern California area as "The Murr"), and quickly became hooked. Murray is nearing his PDCH, and just needs to decide when he wants to lie down on the table one last time. She is also enjoying training Riff, her Lowchen puppy, whose party animal spirit aptly titles him her "#YOLO" dog. 


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