Flyball Returns to the 2019 Purina Pro Plan Incredible Dog Challenge

By Jayne McQuillen, NAFA Communications Committee

On August 5th, I received a surprise phone call from Paul Carson of Carson Events inviting Skidmarkz Flyball Club to participate in the 2019 Purina Pro Plan Incredible Dog Challenge on September 27-28 at Purina Farms just west of St. Louis, Missouri. Carson Events decided to bring flyball back to the IDC in a big way! They invited the top two finishers from both NAFA & U-FLI’s 2018 championships. The idea was to showcase the best of the best from the sport of flyball.

Sharing that honor with the Skidz Crew were teams from clubs Hyperflight, Omaha Speed Racers and Animal Inn. The two greatest challenges were the short notice and that the IDC is held outside on grass. Not only were teams scrambling to get time off and lodging figured out, we all had to figure out if our dogs could play flyball outside! Adding to the time crunch, the IDC was only two weeks before CanAm and three weeks before U-FLI Champs. Normally busy fall schedules suddenly got a lot busier. Just one more adventure in flyball!

The last time the IDC featured flyball (in 2013) they ran a singles competition. Full teams racing posed some new challenges to the producers. They aren’t terribly familiar with flyball racing, so when the teams had questions, it led to even more questions. Namely, how would this blended competition work? NAFA sprung to the competitors’ aid, not only providing an EJS, but also negotiating a lot of details. We are so grateful that NAFA Executive Director Neil Flood explained flyball to Carson Events and helped us figure out how to make it all work!

This was a showcase of flyball for TV, not a tournament. To accommodate everyone, we used U-FLI heights and box regulations and NAFA lights and racing rules. Unfortunately Neil couldn’t join his club Animal Inn at the IDC. Riding to the rescue was Steve Corona, Chairman of the NAFA Board of Directors. What makes this even more admirable is that Neil and Steve were just a few weeks out from CanAm, the World’s Largest Flyball Tournament, as well as dealing with regular NAFA business. As the NAFA representative, Steve became the point of contact with Carson Events. He not only advocated for the teams, he helped make sure we put on the best show possible. When we had concerns or questions, he had already anticipated them and was working on resolutions. Schedules, heat, rain, runback length, taking down and setting up the EJS . . . all became details the competitors didn’t have to deal with! We could focus on safely racing our dogs. Also working tirelessly were judges Randy Garvin, Jess Love and Anthony Pirnat. They left just as much, if not more, sweat out on that hot, humid field as the competitors!

Carson Events and Purina Pro Plan treated the competitors really well. We had catered meals onsite, including an amazing dinner at the Purina Event Center featuring a great presentation highlighting the 22 years of the IDC. They also provided great swag, and free massages and chiropractic care—just for the dogs, unfortunately! They also went above and beyond to ensure the safety of our dogs. And to top it all off, we had front row seats to watch all the other events! Many of us were a bit starstruck seeing top international handlers and dogs from other sports.

Overall, I think the IDC will show a larger audience how exciting flyball is, not to mention how amazing our canine athletes are! And it will show the sportsmanship and true spirit of teamwork that pervade the flyball community. We all wore the same white IDC shirts, which made it hard to distinguish the individual teams when we raced. But it also meant that all you saw were flyballers—not NAFA teams, not U-FLI teams—working together in the spirit of cooperation that we love about this sport. If you needed a boxloader, pass caller, whatever . . . all you had to do was ask. At the Incredible Dog Challenge, we were all on Team Flyball and we were all #IncredibleTogether.

We don’t have exact dates and times that the 2019 Purina Pro Plan Incredible Dog Challenge will be airing on TV, other than possibly in November. Stay tuned to NAFA communication channels (the NAFANews group, Facebook, Twitter, and this blog) for updates. You can also follow Carson Events on Facebook. They have a sneak peak posted already!

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