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Great Falls Dog Training Club hosts agility trials

Great Falls Dog Training Club hosts agility trials
Posted at 7:26 PM, May 18, 2024

GREAT FALLS — The Great Falls Dog Training Club is showing everyone that telling a dog to sit and stay is just the beginning of agility trials.

“This is dog agility,” said Handler Julie Chapman, “It's a sport where we've all trained with our dogs for years to be able to go in the ring and off leash handle them through a series of obstacles.”

Obstacles include jumps, weave poles, tunnels, and occasionally a dog’s stubbornness, but that doesn’t stop handlers like Chapman from coming back year after year. Chapman herself has been taking part in agility trials for 15 years, and traveled from Missoula to Kings Arena outside Great Falls.

“I love this sport. That's why I've been in it 15 years,” Chapman said, “The people, the dogs, the camaraderie.”

Everyone supports everyone at agility trials. If one person’s run qualifies, it does not affect another person’s qualifying run, so the encouragement is palpable in the arena.

At the trials on Saturday, the master agility champion, or MACH, was celebrated with a cake and jump-bar trophy, and the second annual sportsmanship award was given out. The Lex Van Tighem award is named after a dear friend of the group.

“Well, we had a club member named Lex Van Tighem,” said Joanie Carl, a member of the Agility Committee, “And she was one of my dearest and closest longtime friends.”

Van Tighem was a well-respected member of the Great Falls Dog Training Club who was diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s. The disease rapidly developed and ended up taking her life.

“Lex was kind of the epitome of just a very fun, very happy, very good person,” Carl said.

Now, Van Tighem lives on through the sportsmanship award, celebrating those who continue to embody the values she so brightly exhibited.

“We want to retain her memory and we want to do many things in honor of her,” Carl said, “Because she should still be here playing with us.”

More information on the Great Falls Dog Training Club, as well as available classes to take, can be found here.