BENSON MARINA — The dogs that came to the marina on Thursday night seemed to enjoy the golden sun set and the cool evening air. But the water took some getting used to.
Many of the canines of the Cache County 4-H Dog Program peered nervously over the edge of the dock. Others, like Remy, a seven-month-old border collie mix, leaped straight into the water, making a huge splash as he caught a tennis ball thrown by owner Rachael Flammer, one of the instructors.
“Good boy!” said Flammer.
The purpose of last week’s activities was water training and dock diving. Observing the activities, instructor Jill Romo had a bit of advice for the kids who came out to the marina: “The more you have them in the water, the better they’ll do at the dock. You want to get them over that initial fear.”
The 4-H dog program was founded over a year ago by Romo, who simply saw a need for it. Today, it brings in about 32 participants aged 8-18. The program teaches obedience, showmanship, agility, grooming and basic care. It hosts an annual dog show at the Cache County Fair every year.
“When the dogs start (the program), they are practically being dragged by their bellies, and by the end they are completely obedient and in shape,” Romo said. “My goal is to make this county canine-friendly.”
Of the kids that join the program, she said, “Physically, mentally, and spiritually they grow. It’s neat to see them have a connection with an animal.”
Haylie Nye, 11, brought her dachshund, Sage, to the marina on Thursday, eager to train her.
“Hopefully, she’ll be more social with people and other animals,” Nye said. “I’ve always loved animals. I just do this for fun.”
Scott Barber, 17, is a member of the 4-H program and a 4-H youth assistant. It is important, he said, “that the dogs be well-trained, aren’t overly aggressive, and the human has control at all times. ... Dogs know how to react in most situations. It’s scientifically proven that they are man’s best friend.”
As an example of this, Barber spoke of his father’s cancer treatment.
“My dad would not have gotten through the first part (of treatment) because the dog always responded when something was about to go wrong,” he said. “It’s comforting to my dad to have a dog next to him so if he cries, it won’t think anything less of him.”
Michael Guthrie, parent of one of the 4-H members — and accompanied by a 2-year-old golden retriever named Claire — said the program is good for his daughter.
“She would watch videos online (of dogs doing tricks) and when she found out about this program, she was super excited,” Guthrie said. “She has got a lot more out of it than we expected. She’s so proud of the ribbons she had earned and she’s done really well showing us what she’s capable of — and she’s having fun.”
Guthrie said his daughter has taught him a lot about dogs.
“I thought I knew a lot because I grew up with dogs, but she’s teaching me things I didn’t know,” Guthrie said.
Romo said she has always loved dogs, and hopes to instill that love into her students.
“Dogs are good therapy; good for the soul,” Romo said. “They bring out the kid in you. All of the stresses in life go away. They don’t care about what you look like, they don’t care about what you’re wearing — they just want companionship.”
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