At a farm just off Morganton Road in Greenback, hundreds have gathered for a week of Frisbee throwing, agility testing and a few wet-nose kisses.
The event, called Bark Week, brings families to the area from as far away as Connecticut, Washington, California and Texas. Over the course of six days, dogs from breeds ranging from border collies and great Danes to Belgian sheepdogs and shelties will reach for the sky to grab discs in their teeth and show off their speed in the 100-yard dash.
It’s all taking place at Finny Farm, owned by Scott and Karen Echternacht. The farm, named after their beloved cocker spaniel, started receiving guests earlier this week.
On Thursday afternoon, the Updog event had owners throwing Frisbees — as many as they can during a specified amount of time — to see how high and how accurate the dogs could perform.
“This is an annual event,” Karen said. She started Canines for Karen back in 1995 to train dogs in sporting events. In the early days, she had to rent a space for the agility, trick dog, farm dog, canine good citizen, rally, scent work and agility competitions. Then, five years ago, she and Scott bought the Greenback property.
“We decided to just pay a mortgage and do it here,” Karen explained.
With five dogs of her own, all cocker spaniels, Karen said she probably has close to 250 dogs on her property this week.
“Any dog is trainable and all are welcome,” she said.
There are still three days left, counting today, and Karen invites the public to come be entertained by these skilled canines. Activity starts up at 8 a.m. and goes until 4 or 5 p.m., she said.
Agility is the focus today through Sunday. Karen said spectators will see a variety of breeds run through tunnels, jump over objects and maneuver themselves through the course. Spectators should bring lawn chairs.
Jamie Skinner brought her dog, Gideon, to demonstrate his skills in Updog and other challenges. The 3-year-old border collie is No. 2 in the nation in Fast CAT (coursing ability test), she said. He was interested in watching the Frisbee throws on Thursday afternoon.
Get him in the 100-yard dash and he’s in his element, Skinner said. He’s run 29.5 miles per hour, his fastest time.
“He just hauls,” this owner said. “I’ve never had a dog like this. He is special.”
Friends Caitlyn Olvitt and Balla Rowe, from the St. Louis area, had eyes glued on the disc competition. In Olvitt’s arms was her pride and joy, 9-week old border collie, Kite.
“She’s not in the games yet,” Olvitt explained. “This is socializing for her. She is having so much fun. She wants to love on everybody.”
Olvitt and Rowe brought their other dogs with them who were entered in several events. Stardust and Juno were going to try a lot of different things, Rowe said.
“Border collies are the perfect dog for discs,” Rowe said. “And also agility. They are good communicators and have such a willingness to please.”
In addition to the challenges going on at Finny Farm, an area behind Greenback High School was put to use for the 100-yard dash. Sharon Webb, of Georgia, was busy checking in dogs and registering their times. She brought her two dogs, too.
“We go all over the region,” Webb said. “That includes Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina and Tennessee.” She said by the time the week is over, there will have been close to 800 runs through the Fast CAT course. Each dog can do two runs each day.
Julie Adams came from Nashville with her terrier. She said she has four other dogs she brings to competitions like this.
Fast CAT is done one dog at a time as they have a decoy to chase. Dogs compete against other dogs in their breeds.
Just as Hera was finishing up, there came along a Great Dane named Caliber. He is still a puppy. His owner, Jenessa Janssen, said she just wanted to give him a test.
“I just wanted to see if he would enjoy it,” she said. “I think he did.”