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Eid and prize dog Batman earn prestigious title

Lois Eid and her dog Batman captured the AKC Master Agility Champion title during a recent competition in Minneapolis. Submitted photo

Lois Eid and her dog Batman, of West Fargo, have entered an elite group, earning the American Kennel Club's Master Agility Champion title (MACH) - the highest honor an Agility dog and handler can receive. The recognition came while competing in Minneapolis on Friday, Nov. 21, making them only the fourteenth collie and handler team in history to receive the MACH award, and the very first from North Dakota.

Eid and Batman, a six-year-old AKC registered smooth coated collie, began their quest for this title about three years ago, traveling to agility trials in Minnesota, South Dakota, and North Dakota in pursuit.

On a larger scale, Eid has been involved in training and competing with dogs since 1985, but her fondness for canines goes back even further. "We always had dogs while I was growing up and I've always liked them," Lois stated. "After we got married, my husband, Kyle, told me that I needed a hobby, so this is what I've been doing for twenty-three years."

She has also been kept busy with another passion, raising two sons, both West Fargo High School graduates - Ellis attending MSUM and Kyler enrolled at Concordia.

Lois is employed at Scheels All Sports and also finds the time to remain active in other dog-related endeavors - serving as an American Kennel Club Obedience Judge (Emeritus); as president of the Fargo-Moorhead Kennel Club; and teaching agility and obedience classes at the local Canine Academy three nights a week.

  Agility is the fastest growing dog sport in the U.S. and fastest growing event at the AKC. All AKC registered breeds may compete - whether a tiny Yorkshire Terrier or a giant Irish Wolfhound. Dogs of all sizes run the same course, with adjustments in the expected time and jump height.

Originating in England in 1978, agility was designed to be halftime entertainment at the Cruft's Dog Show. AKC held its first agility trials in 1994, staging 23 trials with 2,000 entries. In 2003, AKC sanctioned 1,379 agility trials with approximately 557,750 entries.

MACH titles are awarded based on achieving 750 speed points (by running faster than Standard Course Time) and 20 Double Qualifying Points (by qualifying in The Standard Class and The Jumpers with Weaves Class on the same day). Lois and Batman had climbed up the point ladder and needed only ten points in their final competition to earn the title.

To say Lois was ecstatic is an understatement. She was thrilled not only for her own accomplishments but for her prize dog "that is just like one of the family." Consequently, finally capturing the MACH title proved to be "a really great feeling. When it happened I was just overwhelmed," Lois stated proudly. "There are certain breeds that get this honor quite often because they have an incredible work ethic. When I started with Batman, I knew I was going to have to work harder because of his breed. He has so much potential and is very deserving, working very hard to do whatever I ask. Everybody knows what you have to do to win this award, so it was just unbelievable when it happened and it was wonderful that everyone was standing up and clapping."

In 2000, Marquand Cheek and "Wyatt," a Shetland Sheepdog, from California, acquired the first MACH title. The highest number of MACH titles owned by a single dog and handler team is 11 - a record set by Maureen Waldron and "Molly," a Keeshond who is still competing. The most recently recognized AKC breed to obtain a MACH is "Tigger Too," a Toy Fox Terrier handled by Nancy Louise Jones.

Lois said she had the privilege of attending a class presented by Cheek locally, focusing on agility training that proved to be most beneficial. On that note, the F-M Kennel Club brings in top name instructors at least once a year for seminars, highlighting maneuvers and technique that may be new to the area. "We don't always see the latest techniques and maneuvers in Fargo, so these sessions help considerably in spreading information and increasing everyone's ability," Lois explained. "They have really helped to increase my knowledge of the sport."

The largest agility trial in the country takes place every November in Springfield, Mass., with over 1200 entries per day for four days. The two types of AKC agility classes - the standard class and the jumpers with weave class - offer increasing levels of difficulty to earn novice, open, and excellent titles.

The next step in agility competition is the AKC Invitational set for Dec. 13-14 in Long Beach, Calif. Lois and Batman did get invited, but unfortunately due to the imminent Christmas holiday and other commitments, will be unable to attend. The top five in each breed get invited to this event, and if someone declines, the invitations go out successively to those ranked in the top ten. If all decline, then the breed is eliminated from the competition.

Lois offers up some sage advice for those thinking about getting involved in agility dog training. "It's not easy to have your dog just do it. The sport takes a lot of natural ability and there are safety issues as well, so it is not something that you can just pick up and do if you have no knowledge. You need to take classes that teach you and your dog different obstacles and go from there."

Lois said that anyone interested in learning more about the sport can contact the Fargo-Moorhead Kennel Club's Canine Academy training center at 701-232-7693.