For the love of the sport, local man and canine athlete prepare for competition


Anchor - Laura Emerson
Photojournalist - Chad Darnall
Web Editor - Mason Stevenson

MCCRACKEN COUNTY, Ky. - We feel close to our pets.  They're often considered part of the family.  The bond becomes even closer when you and your dog are a competitive team.

Local 6's Laura Emerson caught up with a western Kentucky man and his canine athlete before they head off to a top-level competition:  Florida's "The Incredible Dog Challenge."

Gene Glastetter and Versace practice often and year 'round.

She's lightning fast and well conditioned, but maybe even more impressive:  how they communicate as a team.

"I can walk, but not very fast and I can't run," Glastetter said.  "I had an industrial accident back in 1974.  I have a prosthesis."

Instead of running along side his dog on the course, Glastetter guides her through the obstacles, mostly with voice commands from his motorized chair.

"I can do a lot of distance work with her.  I can send her all the way across the ring," Glastetter said.

He calls the sport of dog agility his "retirement hobby."  This Belgian Malinois is his thrid competition dog.  He says he and she are really starting to gel as a team, and he's excited about their progress.

"We're getting better and better and better," he said.

Glastetter says the online popularity of a video got them invited to "The Incredible Dog Challenge," where they expect to take on a lot of highly skilled dogs, mostly border collies.

Glastetter says of Versace, "The other dogs better not slip, 'cause she'll make 'em pay."

While preparing for competition is a lot of work, they both consider it serious fun.

"This is play to her.  While she is on an agility course, she is focused.  Nothing else distracts her at all," Glastetter said.

The bond between the team is strong.

"I just get a thrill out of it," Glastetter said.

So not discouraged in the least by their necessity of doing things differently, the are eagerly looking toward the next challenge.

"She's five-years-old and she'll probably remain in competition 'til she's nine."

Glastetter and Versace compete in Clearwater, Florida Friday and Saturday.  He tells Local 6 the key to training a dog to like this is to start them young with basic obedience.  Then, practice the advanced maneuvers in short training sessions often so all remains fun.