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Ball Haulers take fetch to the next level
“Cindee,” a terrier mix, hits the release pad on the flyball box to retrieve the ball while team coach Marina Cummerow looks on. - photo by KRISTINA HACKER / The Journal
The athletes stood at the starting line, their bodies tense with anticipation. When the whistle blew, their pent up energy suddenly exploded into action as they leaped over hurdle after hurdle with one goal in mind — get the ball. With prize in hand — or mouth, actually — they raced back through the hurdles to tag the next member of their relay team. After the race was finished, each team member received a well-earned “good boy” or “good girl” and a rub behind their ears.
The canine athletes described above are members of the Ball Haulers, an area flyball team that practices in Turlock. Flyball is a canine team sport in which two teams of four dogs each race side-by-side over a 51-foot long course. Each dog must run in relay fashion down the jumps, trigger a flyball box, releasing the ball, retrieve the ball, and return over the jumps. The next dog is released to run the course but can’t cross the start/finish line until the previous dog has returned over all four jumps and reached the start/finish line. The first team to have all four dogs finish the course without error wins the heat.
One of the best things about flyball, according to members of the Ball Haulers, is that any breed of dog can compete. Small dogs and large dogs, pure breeds and mutts all are equally capable of running the course.
“I haven’t seen (a dog) who can’t yet,” said Ball Haulers secretary Rene Furiosi.
The team’s long-time coach, Marina Cummerow, said that any breed of dog who has the right personality can play flyball. “A dog that has a lot of energy and wants to please their owner” is a perfect candidate for flyball, said Cummerow.
While the sport is competitive, with over 300 tournaments a year across North America, most of the members of the Ball Haulers got involved in flyball as a way to do something fun with their dog.
“I had a lab who really liked balls and I wanted to play something with her, something we could do just me and her,” said Nicolle Chandler about how she got started in flyball.
The Ball Haulers were practicing hard Sunday afternoon, despite the cold and foggy weather. While their next competition isn’t until February, the team has to practice every week to keep the dogs in top competing condition. And even though the majority of members consider flyball just a hobby, being the best team they can be is definitely a goal they share.
For more information on the Ball Haulers or flyball, contact Rene Furiosi at
To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.