Column: Calling all working dogs

Published 9:38 am Wednesday, January 3, 2024

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By Elisabeth Altamirano-Smith | Community Columnist

Chilton County is known for many wonderful sights and amenities including Lake Mitchell, Lay Lake, great southern food, and of course, peaches galore. One interest and thriving hobby that might not be immediately guessed is competitive working-dog trials. In February, the National Kennel Club (NKC) Alabama Championship for working dogs will be hosted in Verbena, Feb. 23-25. All registrants and spectators are welcome.

There are a wide variety of working dogs, but the championship will specifically be hosted for hounds and Cur dogs (for treeing, tracking and the ability to respond to verbal commands from their handler).

The weekend-long event will include dog-training workshops, NKC water race, dinner for competitors, blood tracking for non-licensed dogs, NKC bench show, AKC Coonhound bench show, dog-treeing contests for non-licensed and NKC dogs, NKC field trial and a Dog B Bay for non-licensed dogs. Bench shows are competitive and will be awarded according to “Best of Breed” and “Best of Show.” The fee to compete in each category is $10.

The weekend itinerary will also feature an NKC Catahoula specialty show. The dog breed, Catahoula, originated from early American settlers that needed a working dog to perform the many tasks on their farms. They are recognized as the state dog of Louisiana because of their tie to early-American history.

The event will be hosted at Coonhound Cabin in Verbena which spans 83 acres with tree-lined pastures, a bass pond and hiking trails. Danielle Kunz, and her husband Kenny, purchased the property in 2018 with the vision to create a space for individuals and families to reconnect with nature and enjoy fishing and hunting.

“We are very blessed that we are still able to use these dogs for what they were intended to do,” said event coordinator Kayla Cooper. “The working dogs have a natural instinct to do the job they are doing. I enjoy the preservation of the breeds, as well as connecting with other competitors. There is a young, core group of women competitors and I enjoy the friendship and supportive community within. We are competitors, but also friends, and it is a gathering of like-minded individuals.”

Cooper said that the event is open to all competitors, new and old, and also hopes that those interested within the general community will attend.

“Sometimes people say, ‘I have this kind of working dog but I have never been to a show,’” said Cooper. “They are absolutely welcome to come and connect with us at this event.”

Pre-registering is open and available via Facebook at NKC Alabama Championship. Day-of-show entries will be accepted, but tracking entries will be limited to those who have registered first.

During the event, competitors (and working dogs alike) can enjoy massages and muscle therapy provided by Southern Roots Bodywork and Southern Wave Therapy.

Limited RV camping is available at Coonhound Cabin (6007 County Road 41, Verbena).

For more information, contact the event via Facebook at NKC Alabama Championship.