This year, Garland’s Wheat and Beet Days celebration went to the dogs.
On Friday, June 28, 10 youth and their canine companions delighted a crowd at the Garland City park with an obedience, agility, showmanship and rally show. The kids led their dogs on leashes through a variety of obstacles, having them jump through a ring, run through a tube and dash up and over a ramp, among other tasks.
Some of the dogs deftly navigated their way through the course, while others were more reluctant and took their time. But all had fun and worked on valuable leadership goals, as is the objective of the 4-H program.
“It’s about getting the kids to stand up and do things that are out of their comfort zone,” said Lanette Sorenson, director of PAWS for Applause, the official name of the Box Elder 4-H dog club.
The setting is informal compared with the dog shows you might see on television, with most participants teaming up to train the family dog. The human participants range in age from third grade up through the end of high school, the same range as other 4-H programs.
“Adults get excited and want to do it, too, but we currently don’t have the resources to let just anyone in,” Sorenson said.
About four years ago, Sorenson started PAWS for Applause because there was nothing like it available to youth in the Bear River Valley. Cache County had the only such club in the state at the time, and she got some pointers from the people in charge of that program and ran with it.
“Cache and Box Elder are the only active clubs in the state,” Sorenson said.
Sorenson grew up with the 4-H program in Idaho working with horses before moving to the Bear River Valley as a freshman in high school, and prior to starting the dog club was the community lamb leader for the program in Box Elder County. The dog club grew out of wanting to do something with her son, who graduated from high school last year.
Sorenson also has experience training search and rescue dogs, as well as therapy dogs.
In addition to the shows, PAWS for Applause also participates in numerous service projects around the valley, and sometimes meets with the dogs not just to do an obstacle course, but to learn about canine nutrition, health and wellness, and first aid.
The club requires a significant time commitment from its participants, with meetings twice a month from September to May and shows throughout the summer.
“It’s fun, but it’s also a lot of work,” Sorenson said. “They have to be dedicated and willing to work with the dogs.”
The show at Wheat and Beet Days served as a trial run for the state fair later this year, which the club has been participating in each of the past three years. The club will also be putting on a show at the Box Elder County Fairgrounds on Aug. 8-9, which is technically before the fair starts, but is still considered part of the festivities.
During the fairgrounds show on Aug. 9, the club will also put on a pet show featuring dogs, cats, pocket pets (hedgehogs, guinea pigs, etc.), reptiles, amphibians, aquatic animals and other lesser-known pets. Those who would like to show a pet can call Sorenson at (435) 279-4041.
The dog show is happening early because the indoor arena is needed for sheep and other livestock shows during fair week.
“It’s early, but we still get to be a part of it,” Sorenson said. “We appreciate what they do for us.”
The club has grown during its relatively short existence, but finding and recruiting new members is always a challenge, but Sorenson said having support from the 4-H organization and the fairgrounds has helped.
“Our biggest roadblock is getting participation,” she said. “Because our show is during an off time at the fair, not everybody knows about it. “We’re always looking to do more.”