Competing in dog sports isn’t easy. It takes a great deal of preparation, hard work, dedication and a love of the game. And while we may try, none of us can really do it alone. Hosting dog sport competitions is very much the same. It is, without a doubt, a labor of love. This weekend we hosted a flyball tournament. That, in and of itself, is not unusual by any means. We will host six, maybe *cough* seven *cough* before the year is out. But this tournament WAS different.

Flyball, by nature, is an intensely emotionally charged sport. Like any dog sport, it has its own personality, its own quirks and habits. It also has its own culture. As individuals, teams and a community, we had challenges this weekend. We had oppressive heat forecasted and a tough schedule to keep. While we all knew this going in, the reality rapidly set in the week before especially as team after team sustained loss of dogs, many temporary and some unfortunately not. There were other factors at play as well. It was clear by Tuesday that this tournament had the potential to be incredibly difficult and challenging. And yet, everyone worked together. There was adaptability. There was kindness. There was empathy. There was patience. There was great sportsmanship. Was it all sunshine and rainbows and magic glitter unicorns? Of course not. This is real life. I am fond of saying that attitude is everything and that was the case this weekend. There was such a prevailing sense of community and it made an impact.

Thank you so much to every team who attended. Every single team helped make this tournament go, whether it was moving furniture in the air conditioned crating areas, rolling mats, vacuuming floors, filling pools, filling chairs or just making sure a door was closed here and there. We had a clean-up crew unlike any other clean-up crew and the mats were off the floor and out the building in less than 60 minutes after the last race. More importantly, thank you for great competition, sportsmanship and humor. So much humor.

Rachel and RDS’s own EV hanging out at the tournament.

It is with a full heart and so much love that I thank our full-time volunteers who made long drives just to fill chairs for nothing more than a margarita, a thanks and great racing. We couldn’t have kept the tournament moving with you. Donna, Rachel, Beckie and Angie: THANK YOU!  You guys rocked your jobs and more importantly did it with a smile.  Thank you for the great company, great work and for giving up your weekend to work and play with us!

Thank you to our NAFA officials onsite: our judge, Bill Carter and our designated regional director Elaine Alston. We asked our judge to keep racing moving ahead of the heat, taking more frequent breaks to allow teams and dogs to rest, forgoing a long lunch break. While each club may be out in the ring most of the day, our judge stays out there all day. Thank you, Bill! A big thank you to Elaine for doing an absolutely outstanding job as the designated RD this weekend. Elaine and I were in constant communication throughout the weekend, monitoring weather, race breaks and later the Epic Schedule Change of Sunday (insert dramatic music here). Your hard work was so very much appreciated!

Thank you to our NAFA official offsite, Candis Amasalian. Although unable to attend, when I had the idea to completely reseed the tournament and set a new schedule on Sunday to shorten the race day while eliminating racing ghost teams, Candis was right on it to discuss, review and approve the alternative plan with the club captains, Elaine and me. Thank you for being there for us!

Actual temperature reading on Sunday from the race lanes. Racing ended at 1 PM.

Thank you also to the Canine Competitive Gym for shutting down to regular clients for the weekend and opening your doors to our merry band of crazy flyball competitors. We take up a lot of room. We are loud. We require major reorganization of training areas, classrooms and offices. We use everything. When it was well over 100 degrees outside, the racing lanes were 82 degrees. Our dogs were blissfully comfortable in air conditioned crating and even for those of us running like maniacs here and there and everywhere, the air-conditioned rooms were a welcome respite from heat. Thank you for welcoming us back for a second time and inviting us back in September. You have an amazing facility which served us so very well.

So, what is the point of this love fest? Simply this: Let’s keep it up. Let’s do the thing. Let’s be this way all the time. Let’s go out there, remember that we are all in this together and have fun with our dogs and with each other. We’re family. We won’t always get along. But we ARE family. Thank you for being part of our flyball family. Also, run clean, run fast and for the love of Dog crank up the air conditioner and bring me a drink.