Even though the dogs are the stars of the show and doing all the work during the Arctic Blast Terrier Trials, the two-day event isn’t just fun for the dogs.
“Conformation is the best part of the trials for me,” said Emma Howard, a 9-year-old handler from Springfield, Mo. “It is fun because you get to show your dog and answer fun questions. And barn hunt is good, too. But racing is the least fun because you have to run 600 feet every race.”
This year’s trials were held at the Apple River Hideaway and featured more than 150 dogs.
“It has never been at the Apple River Hideaway before,” trial chair Brenda Buckles said. “We have been at the Apple River Family Campground, but this place is bigger and has a little bit more room for us to spread out. And that is a good thing because we want to grow bigger every year.
“We are up to about 150 dogs this year. We are already up by at least 20 dogs from last year,” she said.
During the two days, the dogs take part in two separate trials meaning a slow start on Day 1 doesn’t necessarily spell disaster for a handler and their dogs.
“We start out with racing then have a short break, then open up conformation,” Buckles said. “It is two separate trials on both Saturday and Sunday. The first day you could not win anything and then the next you could win a ton.”
Most of the skills necessary to compete in the trials come naturally to terriers, such as running and smelling.
“A lot of the training comes just from instinct for most dogs,” trial chair Marlene Schmitt said. “The dogs watch the racing and they just want to chase things. The go-to-ground and the barn hunt are the same thing where the dogs are just using their nose to follow the scent. And the conformation is just a matter of going in there and teaching them to beg after a treat so they will do their stuff.”
This year, Buckles and Schmitt were able to bring in trial judges from England, Canada, Maryland and Indiana.
Buckles and Schmitt have been putting on the trials for the last 18 years and even though the trials are hard work, they still enjoy what they do.
“We have been doing this club for 18 years now and we start planning this event pretty much as soon as the last trial it done,” Buckles said. “We just love the breed and that is what has kept us doing this for so many years. These trials are fewer and fewer around the country because a lot of clubs have folded. It is a lot of work, but when you have the trials the people are so grateful. We had a woman drive 22 hours to come to this trial.”
Schmitt’s son, Sam Schmitt, doesn’t show dogs, but he finds other ways to help out with the trials and he continues to enjoy every second of it.
“We helped by taking the colored collars and the lure all the way down to the start box, but it is really far away from the finish line,” Schmitt, 9, from Houlton, said. “I don’t race any dogs, but I do help out a lot which is fun most of the time.”