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Please Let Flyball Become A Thing

Flyball is having a moment. And what is Flyball? A sport for dogs.

It’s not an agility course, it’s not a game of catch, but is instead a coordinated effort of humans and dogs (but mostly dogs) where they race to retrieve a ball in quick succession without hitting each other. There are Flyball courses, Flyball coaches, Flyball athletes, and so much more in the Flyball world.

It’s becoming a thing too. I recently took my dogs to the dog park and was greeted at the entrance with an advertisement for Flyball team tryouts. Tryouts for a dog sport! Can you believe this? Dog ownership has gotten quite out of hand as of late – but this? This is some lovingly next level shit. I can’t take it.

The sport isn’t new, instead originating in the early 1980s. But, for whatever reason, it has become so trendy as of late that the New York Times is on the case too, thus confirming this moment. But why is it gaining traction now? The story points in some directions.

Steve Corona, chairman of the North American Flyball Association, said that Flyball has been growing in popularity, and now has around 700 clubs with 16,000 registered dogs. As a sign of how the sport has flourished, he said, dog breeders have started mixing breeds that are specifically meant to excel at Flyball: They may pair a border collie with a whippet, a Staffordshire bull terrier or a Jack Russell, for example.

At the Oriole club tournament here, Carle Lee Detweiler, who works in customer service for a label printer in Baltimore, showed off her dog Lessa, a border collie/whippet mix that was purpose-bred for Flyball.

“Lessa has real potential on the national scale,” Ms. Detweiler said in a conspiratorial whisper.

But Flyball is meant for everyone. Even three-legged dogs compete, said Mr. Corona, who runs a dog-boarding business near Austin. He and his wife have six dogs, two of which compete in Flyball; his personal dog, Cayenne, is a border collie that was rescued from a parking lot and is now a Flyball Grand Champion.

A combination of “All are welcome!” with a bit of unsavory sporting overzealousness? Sounds like we have a winner here.

Plus: dogs. Dogs and sports. Two things people love. Of course it is succeeding these days!

It does look fun – but it also looks fucking stressful. For any dog owner, particularly those with wily, unruly, loud dogs like mine, the thought of them being in an arena with a bunch of other dogs with a task seems like a recipe for disaster. At least for my dogs, there seems to be no available concentration to do anything but be in the house or run around at a dog park. Running on a track? Retrieving something? Disaster. Disaster, disaster, disaster.

I guess I’m impressed, mostly. Very intrigued, yes, but mostly impressed. Can you imagine your dog doing this? I cannot. I literally cannot. I’m sure that’s part of the fun though – and maybe I’ll take the Flyball flyers more seriously, next time I see them.

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