BROWNSTOWN — Annabelle Mathena of Freetown decided to submit her dog, Daisy, the 115-pound bloodhound who outweighed her, to some training.
For one basic reason: “So she’ll listen to me,” Mathena said.
When it comes to obedience lessons and agility runs, Daisy has come a long way in two years. Daisy was one of seven dogs showing off at the Waggin’ Pals 4-H Dog Club demonstration Wednesday night at the Jackson County Fair.
Big dogs, little dogs and in-between-sized dogs turned out to prove what they have learned to an audience at Show Arena 1. To one degree or another, they are all works in progress, and while all showed off some sophisticated behavior, there were some twists along the way.
Master of ceremonies Izzy Smith, who is a co-trainer in the program, reminded watchers not every dog is going to perform perfectly every time out.
“If you are not making a fool of yourself while you are training your dog, you are not doing it right,” Smith said.
Daisy appeared big enough and strong enough to drag Mathena up and down the paths between food booths and amusement rides with only a shrug of shoulders.
Seymour’s Chelsea Montiel has a white Bichon Frisé-poodle mix named Luna that might be one-tenth the size of Daisy. When it comes to following commands like stay, sit and heel and to darting around the agility course over barriers and zooming over a banked apron, she must concentrate extra hard because she is deaf.
Jaxon Reichenbacker featured a beagle named Molly. Molly had a year less training than the other dogs, so she was still picking up pointers others had learned.
“I really like watching,” Reichenbacker said.
Jennifer Jump of Austin has a border collie named Luka, and Jump said her family has three generations of dog trainers, so she came to dog training naturally. But she also loves doing it.
“Anything and everything” about it, she said. “Living out the legacy.”
After all of this work, does Luka pay attention when called? “Sometimes,” Jump said, “when there’s food.”
Lauren Schepman of Seymour has a Labrador retriever named Roxy who really enjoys doing her stuff in front of crowds like the 50 or so spectators watching this day.
“I love taking her because she loves it so much,” Schepman said. “She knows when it’s time to work, and she saves her best for that, especially like here.”
Vivienne Siefker of Seymour brought her Labrador retriever to participate. The dog, named Willowdean, does not sing or dance or otherwise perform in such a manner.
“No, sadly,” Siefker said.
But the black Labrador does pay attention to orders.
“Yeah, yeah, she’s pretty good with me,” Siefker said.
Besides the basic commands of recommended behavior, the agility course was meant to be followed, too. That included a slightly twisted tunnel where the owner leads the dog to the entrance and waits at the other end, 20 or so feet along, for it to exit.
Once in awhile, a dog disappeared in the innards of the tunnel and owners had to crawl in and cajole them forward. Mathena had to do that to coax Daisy out, employing the lure of treats. Chelsea had to chase, too.
Josie Dotts of Bedford didn’t fret much about Suki, her Australian shepherd. Suki is going on 4 years old and knows her way around such events. Plus, at the beginning of the fair in real competition, Suki was top flight.
Still, entering the fair, Dotts was concerned Suki would not respond well to crowd noise.
“She’s really skittish,” Dotts said. “I was scared she would n’t want to do anything in public.”
Not to worry. Suki performed like a champ, which she is. Suki won the grand champion agility contest at the beginning of the fair.
Suki received a banner, and Dotts threw a party for her that included a stop at Dairy Queen for the Pup Cup menu item especially for dogs, a small scoop of vanilla ice cream with a doggy biscuit swirled into it.