Pet Tales

Dog-related activities offer exercise, satisfaction

A couple of weeks ago Joan Ponza of Pismo Beach sent me an e-mail suggesting that I write a column about some of the different activities available in the county for dogs and their owners.

She added that she and her Australian shepherds, Rosie and Roxie, participate in agility, freestyle and obedience classes and competitions. At my request, she shared how she got started.

“I grew up in a traditional family where dogs lived and played outside. They were fed, sheltered and immunized. Our dogs were considered good old family dogs, who barked when strangers drove up and eagerly wagged their tails when someone would go outside and give them attention.

“When I retired several years ago, I not only wanted a dog as a companion, but I wanted a dog that could do something special. I looked for an activity that would provide social interaction, physical exercise and mental stimulation.

“Having remembered an agility demonstration I had seen, I decided to look for a pup with potential for this sport.

“I found my Australian shepherd, Rosie. We started with a puppy class, then basic obedience training. We joined a local dog group that provided encouragement and training tips. After that, we went on to basic agility classes, then to intermediate and advanced classes.

“Last year, after two and a half years of training, Rosie and I entered our first competition — an agility trial in Ventura. My goal was to have the courage to walk up to the start line with Rosie, place her in a sit-stay, cue her to release and then complete the course without looking conspicuously stupid.

“With my heart pounding and my brain trying to remember the course and how to best negotiate it, I not only accomplished my goal, but did a little better. Running the course was a blur as we sped by all the obstacles — over the jumps, through the tunnel, over the A-frame and across the dog walk.

What exhilaration! After our run, I realized we had run clean within the time frame, and even placed first.

“While driving home that evening, I thought about all the wonderful friends I had made while training, all the great exercise I had, and the satisfaction in taking a dog to this level of training.”

Joan, Rosie and Roxie, train for agility with Eileen Harnedy at the Canine Academy in Atascadero, freestyle with Teah Anders at Gentle Touch Pet Training in Arroyo Grande, and obedience with Linda Hardy at Good Shepherd Dog Obedience in San Luis Obispo.

Animal-related activities in county

Heaven Can Wait Equine Rescue, Rehabilitation and Sanctuary of San Miguel will host a benefit St. Patrick’s Day doggy fashion show from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. March 17 at Chateau Bow-Wow, 816 13th St., Paso Robles.

Holiday snacks and refreshments will accompany wine pourings from San Miguel’s Ranchita Canyon Vineyard.

Donations are $10 at the door. For more information, call 712-3109, 395-3030 or 368-5702.

If you have a story or photos of your furry, feathered or scaly friend please e-mail to me to or mail to Pet Tales, c/o The Tribune, P.O. Box 112, San Luis Obispo, CA 93406.

Jennifer VanderSmith is The Tribune’s pet columnist.