Get to Know Your 2023 CanAm Judges

A highlight of racing at CanAm is the opportunity to run under judges who may be new to you. Each judge brings a unique personality to the ring that makes the CanAm experience even more special.

Let’s meet this year’s judges!

2023 NAFA CanAm Championship Judge
Dave Collett
Region 21
Omaha Speed Racers
Years judging: 16
Years playing flyball: 16

“Everyone is here to enjoy time with their dogs and friends. Sometimes that is running as fast as possible, while sometimes that is watching the happy-go-lucky dog amble down the course.”

Dave started playing flyball after watching a show on Animal Planet that featured a tournament in Las Vegas. He decided his Aussie, Molly, would be perfect for the sport and was hooked. After searching online, he found a local club that was accepting new dogs and handlers.

Soon realizing there were no judges in Region 6 and only one in Region 16, he went through the NAFA training program and in 2007 became a judge. Dave was a relief Judge for CanAm in 2010, 2014, 2018, 2021 and a Head Judge in 2017.

Watching new dogs navigate the course or handlers release a dog for the first time is one of his favorite parts of the sport. Celebrating titles and achievements in the ring is also rewarding.

His buddy, Bullett, retired after being sidelined due to Covid. AK, height dog for X at CanAm in 2014, retired this past December. His current dog running Flyball is Bang!, a daughter of Bullett.

Three rules Dave would pass on, from a training Judge:
1. If it doesn’t matter to the result of the race, it doesn’t matter.
2. Points don’t cost him anything.

Did you know?
Dave likes to laugh and joke with competitors. When asked what breed his current dog Bang! is, he usually replies “High Presbyterian,” to which a recent competitor replied, “She looks more Methodist to me.”

Carl Dingee
Region 10
F.A.M.E. (Flyball Agility Maritime Express)
Years judging: 25
Years playing flyball: 32

Carl started playing flyball in 1991 shortly moving to Moncton, NB to start work as a veterinarian. He joined a new club that was a group of dog enthusiasts who wanted to do dog sports with their dogs. That club was F.A.M.E. (Flyball Agility Maritime Express) number 73 in NAFA. The club hosted the first tournament in New Brunswick and continues to host today.

Seeing the need for some local judges, Carl stepped into the ring for the first time in 1998 and later became the first supervising judge in Region 10. He credits being able to judge and run his dogs over the years to help from great teammates and the other judges in the region. He appreciates our fun sport and always enjoys the folks he meets, no matter where he judges.

Did you know?
Carl is very much looking forward to his first trip to CanAm!

Steve Heine
Regions 6/16
Surf City Flyball
Years judging: 12
Years playing flyball: 17

Steve lives in Southern California and races and judges in Regions 6 and 16. Steve and his wife Erika took up flyball in 2006 and have been racing since then with three different dogs; they are currently training two new pups for flyball. 

Steve has been an Approved Judge since 2011 and a Supervising Judge since 2016. He is looking forward to the opportunity and challenge of helping everyone have an excellent experience at CanAm.

Did you know?
This will be Steve’s fourth appearance as a CanAm Head Judge. Previous CanAm assignments were in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Paula Johnson
Region 2
Years judging: 4
Years playing flyball: 13

Dogs and dog sports have been a part of Paula’s life since a very young age. She believes that part of being a judge is making the experience fun and exciting for everyone involved. Her favourite thing about judging is watching teams celebrate their wins. From a green dog getting that first clean race under their belt, to hitting a new personal best time, to dogs reaching milestones—it all brings a smile to her face!

Did you know?
Paula was introduced to flyball in 2010 when she was recruited to give it a try with her miniature bull terrier by her now wife.

Tim McElligott
Regions 2/13
Spring Loaded
Years judging: 7
Years playing flyball: 12

Tim and his wife Mary both decided to become NAFA judges in order to give back to a sport and organization that they love. Having a built-in relief judge comes in handy!

Tim and Mary have five dogs: Tek, 11-year-old Border Collie, retired flyball dog; Disco, 11-year-old Miniature Aussie, retired flyball dog; Tessie, 9-year-old Border Collie, current flyball dog; Bliss, 5-year-old Border Whippet, current flyball dog; and Tango, 5-year-old Border Whippet, handled for owner Audra Ahl.

Before being sidelined by an injury, Tim enjoyed playing softball for many years. These days, flyball has his full attention. He is the father of two incredible humans: a 29-year-old daughter who is an attorney and a 26-year-old son who is a school teacher.

Did you know?
Tim is a licensed professional Civil Engineer in New York State and currently serves the constituents of Ontario County, NY as Deputy Commissioner of Public Works.

Amy Brubaker Stewart
Region 9
Years judging: 18
Years playing flyball: 13

Your NAFA 2022 Judge of the Year is happy to return to judging at CanAm this year after having been the NAFA CanAm Championship judge in 2021. Amy became an Approved Judge in 2010 and Supervising Judge in 2020. She has been a CanAm head judge multiple times and loves to see her friends and fellow judges from around the country!

Amy feels the best aspect of being a judge is to see the successes of clubs and teams as they work to achieve their goals while upholding the competitive, ethical, and fun nature of sport. She wishes to acknowledge Jamen Stewart, who is a rockstar human and husband and her biggest supporter.

Did you know?
Amy owes her start in flyball to her first adopted sheltie-wannabe, Miss Sienna “My Little Pony” Brubaker, and her club DogGoneFast in central North Carolina.

Joan Weesies
Region 11
Tampa Bay Barkaneers
Years judging: 5
Years playing flyball: 9

Joan started her career in flyball in 2014, racing in North Carolina (Region 9) and then relocating to Gulfport, FL (Region 11). She currently races for the Tampa Bay Barkaneers, out of St. Petersburg, FL, with her Boston Terriers. After learning that Region 11 had no active judges, she decided in 2017 to begin the training program and was approved as a judge in 2018. This will be her fourth appearance as a judge at CanAm and her second as a Head Judge. 

Did you know?
Joan recently had the honor to judge the AKC Flyball Invitational held in Ocala, FL.

Imagine CanAm…a little differently!

We are just a few weeks away from the start of CanAm 2023!  For some of us in NAFA,  the planning started last year, during setup for CanAm 2022.  That was the first time we were able to tour the inside of the Indiana Farm Bureau Fall Creek Pavilion.  Donning spiffy safety vests and hard hats, we looked at a very, VERY  blank slate and started to imagine what 2023 would look like.   It took a lot of  creativity, and ingenuity and yes Imagination to start mapping out the future CanAm! 

Until I was on the Board of Directors, I never realized just how much time and energy goes into putting on this truly massive tournament.  In fact, it’s been done so smoothly for so many years, as a competitor, I certainly took for granted that it was an impressive feat.  Especially when you consider the how much of this is done by a volunteer workforce.  

An unsung hero, Karen Oleson is the amazing driving force behind it all.  You may only see her sitting in the Pit Boss area pushing some papers and doing data entry, but the amount of time and thought she puts into CanAm is unparalleled.  We have a blue print for how to set up and run CanAm.  We have timelines, spreadsheets, shared documents that make putting on this huge event just a little less monumental.   

All that documentation we rely on…well, we had to throw out a substantial chunk of it.  In the West Pavilion, we literally know exactly what landmark to use to lay down the very first mat.  We know exactly where to put crating, vendors, measuring locations and even where to put those sweet trophies.  We even know where we can hide stuff!  Like EJS boxes, empty pallets, all the swag bags of goodies.  Those of us involved in planning CanAm 2023 had our work cut out for us.  

That rough box we looked at in October 2022 was revisited in June of 2023.  We were finally able to get physically on the main level and start measuring out the exact ring placement & draw up new blue prints with exact measurements.  Then we had more questions, where are power drops, where will the heavy traffic flow be, where will the potty areas be, we think we have the answers.  However, I know that there is a likelihood the set up crew is going to run into some bumps once actually on the ground.  Expect to have to roll with a few hiccups, headaches and what the heck issues when we hit the ground in Indianapolis.  We will do our best to smooth everything out but even the best imaginations can’t predict everything!  

We did not predict that the NAFA flyball community would be so awesome.  You have entered, in force, with enough entries to warrant six rings of racing in the Fall Creek Pavilion with a seventh Championship ring in the Pepsi Coliseum.  Then vendors started rolling in …over 25 of them to find space for in the new venue.  Tweaks, twists, shifts, and a few shoves, we have been scrambling to make it all work in that big box of a building!    

Just orienting yourselves to the new building will be difficult.  It’s confusing, we totally get it.  We also know that flyballers like to plan ahead and be prepared.  So here are a few known unknowns.  

  • Potty areas
    • Natural grass across the parking lot to the South and East of the building and a small area to the south of the building
    • We are creating artificial turf areas close to the building but we aren’t exactly sure where..stay tuned
    • Lots of grass on the north side of building on the Mezzanine level – but be prepared to trek upstairs or take the elevator.
  • Access Points
    • Weird – there are no doors on the north or west side of the building from the main level. For that reason we shifted the primary crating areas to the South and East sides of the building where there are multiple access doors available.
  • Bleachers
    • We have access to  bleachers that we can pull out and push in when needed for captains meetings and awards
  • Power Access
    • We are working to ensure power is available in the crating area – but exactly where those drops will be is still being determined – so like usual please bring plenty of extension cords and make friends with your crating neighbours.

Here is a great video that can help you get a feel for the layout of the building.  Also you can learn things about swine, but ignore that and look at the building in the background!  Most of it shows a view from the North end of the building on the Mezzanine level. 

So will it be the same CanAm as you know it? In some ways yes, in others there will be changes. We can’t say thank you enough to the NAFA community for their support and their patience as we work to get all the kinks ironed out.  

We don’t just imagine, WE KNOW, all of you will make this a CanAm to remember.  We don’t just imagine, WE KNOW, that the NAFA leadership and a whole group of amazing volunteers will do everything possible to make this a world class event, imagined just a little differently this year!