Canines play ball

The 2009 All Dogs Flyball Tournament at the Mesa County Fairgrounds. Flyball is timed event in which dogs must clear jumps and catch a tennis ball tossed by a spring-loaded bar.

High-energy breeds perform for points

Local resident Wanda Allen wishes she could have a dog. She and her husband travel so much, though, it’s really not possible.

That didn’t keep Allen from watching dogs of all shapes, sizes and colors compete in relay races Saturday during the A Party For All Dogs Flyball Tournament at the Mesa County Fairgrounds. The event is free and continues today.

“I’ve never seen a dog run so fast,” Allen said, watching pooches whiz by. “It’s every bit as exciting as horse racing, even noisier.”

Two teams of four dogs each and their handlers ready for the judge’s whistle. The first dog of each team races over four hurdles, nabs a spring-loaded tennis ball from a box, turns and races back to its owner. In the meantime, another dog from the same team is released, passing the first dog as it runs its final pass. If a team can master the event in under 24 seconds, each dog wins 25 points.

It’s all about points in the world of flyball, the world’s fastest-growing sport, said MariAnne Fifield, owner of Grand Junction’s flyball club, Westside Woofers.

“People see it on TV and are finding us,” she said. “You wouldn’t want to drag your dog off the couch and bring him here to compete. He might get hurt. These dogs are all tightly wound and well-trained.”

However, with training, just about any kind of dog can compete in the events, Fifield said.

The most common breeds at the event Saturday were variations of Australian shepherds and border collies. There were also Labrador retrievers, Jack Russell terriers and any number of mixed breeds. Some “designer dogs” bred to run really fast include a border collie and Jack Russell terrier mix, called a border jacker, or a border collie and a rat terrier mix, called a border rat.

“You can’t come home and sit when you have this kind of dog,” Fifield said of the high-energy breeds.

One of Fifield’s eight dogs, Shelby, a 10-year-old sheltie, broke a Colorado record when she was the first to earn 20,000 points. Another dog at the event Saturday, Digit, was celebrated after reaching 100,000 points, a feat only 14 other dogs have achieved, Fifield said.

The Westside Woofers started the annual tournaments in Grand Junction in 2003. Most competitors travel at least once a month, and some go every weekend, to tournaments around the region or nation.

Seventeen teams from across the state and Wyoming and New Mexico competed Saturday.

To get involved in flyball with your dog, contact Fifield at westsidewoofers@


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