Dog handlers passionate at Pepper agility trial |

Dog handlers passionate at Pepper agility trial

Karl Horeis

Quick little shelties, border collies and scores of other dogs sprinted one at a time Saturday through an obstacle course on the opening day of the third annual Pepper Memorial Classic agility trial.

“We’re here to have fun with our dogs,” said event organizer Lin Battaglia of Sparks. “It’s a constant learning curve, though. As you get higher in the levels the courses get harder and the times get faster.”

Today’s competition will include two standard routines and two jumpers. One hundred and eight dogs and their handlers were entered in Saturday’s events.

Battaglia and her husband, Greg, started the annual event as a memorial for Pepper, a sheltie they lost to canine lymphoma four years ago. The event is a fund-raiser for canine lymphoma research, with proceeds going to the Morris Research Center in Colorado.

“It is an almost incurable disease,” said Battaglia. “There’s about a 2 percent survival rate.” Battaglia is a certified agility instructor with a facility at her home on the Pyramid Highway. She trained the great Shetland sheep dog Gats-B who was the first dog in Nevada ever to win an agility championship.

Her Pepper Memorial Classic raised about $8,000 last year and $6,000 the year before.

Because entry fees raise only so much money, the Battaglias rely on a silent auction and donations for a lot of the proceeds. Two of the items up for auction this year are a half-day boat rental on Lake Tahoe and an afternoon of wine tasting and hors d’oeuvres at Bright Angel Ranch.

Volunteering at the auction table Saturday was another handler, Nola Long, who lost a dog to lymphoma. Her dog Cody passed away on Jan. 7.

“It’s dogs who are like family that are being diagnosed,” she said.

She and Greg Battaglia talked about how canine lymphoma research is more about finding a cause than a cure.

“You know, is it vaccinations? Is it it the herbicides we’re putting on our lawns?” asked Battaglia.

“Is it diet?” asked Long.

Finding the cause of canine cancer will likely help the effort to end cancer in humans as well, they agreed.

Debbie Washer of Sun Valley lost two dogs to lymphoma — Casey, a sheltie, and Flash, a westie or west highland white terrier.

Flash was a dog she groomed everyday because of his long hair, she explained. He was diagnosed and succumbed to the disease in five months.

“I miss him. He was my bud,” she said.

The dog agility enthusiasts enjoy having the event at Carson’s Fuji Park, according to Cherie Singer, Lin Battaglia’s training assistant.

“One reason we really love having the event at Fuji Park is they allow us to camp here,” said the owner of two shelties.

Judges certified by the North American Dog Agility Council will award trophies for high-end trial excellence in six categories: elite, open, novice, junior handler, veteran (for dogs older than 7) and overall.

If You Go

What: Pepper Memorial Classic dog agility trial

When: Today, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: Fuji Park

Call: 425-2375