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  • Writer's pictureReyna Bradford

Bark for Life (written 5/7/22)

Working with dogs in order to help people is one of my passions.

Dogs have so much to give, and, in my experience, we humans are always in need. Dogs love to help, people need help. It's a great system.

So, when Kelli Bausch, owner and director of Camo Cross Dog Training, invited me to participate in the annual Bark for Life event, I jumped at the chance.

Bark for Life is a fund raiser, hosted by Camo Cross, supporting the work of the American Cancer Society. This year, it fell on May 7, a beautiful, early-summer Saturday. For about four hours, the training facility opened its doors to the public, and the exhibitors who had

been invited presented a variety of canine-based sports, activities, and organizations.

My dogs and I were called in to demonstrate the sport of barn hunt.

Barn hunt is becoming wildly popular within the performance dog world, but is still largely unknown to the average pet person. Bark for Life had never showcased it before. Come to think of it, neither had I. In fact, I have never put on any kind of public demonstration with any of my dogs. Showing in the ring, yes. Class participation, yes. Facilitating our own barn hunt practice here every week and answering occasional questions, sure.

But an actual demo in front of complete and random strangers? Never.

Maybe I've mentioned this before, but you gotta start somewhere. Tassie and I, along with three eager rats and my slightly less excited parents, staked out our table beside a 20-by-20 area fenced in with ring gating and scattered with hay bales. My main concern was Tassie's workability in such a totally novel setting. Think doggy block party and you'll have the general idea. Music blaring over the sound system, lots of people and dogs strolling past, new training ring, new hay bales. I remembered how tentative she had been at our first trial down in Springfield, and that environment had been calm and quiet. Nothing compared to this circus. I might have to baby her along a little bit today.

But as soon as she saw the bales, Tassie knew what she was about. And when I unsnapped the lead and told her to "go find rats!" she went right to work.

All and all, she did a fantastic job. She demoed about five different rat hunts for various onlookers, and each time I brought her out, she was quick and efficient and indicated every find decisively. She was on task and unruffled by the party atmosphere around her. Once again, I had set my expectations too low. By now, I really ought to know better.

We also had a sizable handful of dogs from our weekly practice sessions who stepped in as demos. We have a really nice core group of dedicated handlers, and the dogs, of course, made everybody look good.

To add to the day's successes, Scotch earned his third and final Canine Good Citizen title. Testing for the CGCA, or "community" level of the CGC program, was offered at this event, so I tucked Scotch into my doggy entourage and hoped he would make it worthwhile.

He did. He passed the evaluation with confidence, and can now add the letters CGCA to the lengthening list behind his registered name. . This dog has come so far over the past six months.

Not to be outdone, Banner also hung out at our table, greeting dogs and people alike with happy good manners. I'm getting him out as much as possible now, and I just couldn't ignore this brilliant opportunity for socialization with him. So he stayed leashed to a table leg for most of the event, except when we went over to watch the Kansas City Disc Dogs present a fabulous Frisbee demonstration.

It was a good day. Fantastic weather, fun people, friendly dogs. And besides all that, lots of interest in barn hunt. Plus, I was just happy with how my crew behaved. Even the rats were good!

So far, I haven't heard anything about how much money was raised or how many people attended. But for me, it was another small benchmark on our long road to recovery. The dogs and I are reforging our relationship. And what a fun and meaningful way to keep working at it!

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