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Celebrating 50 Years:  1955-2005

History written by Joyce Ostby, May 1, 2006

Spokane Dog Training Club History

Spokane Dog Training Club has always been a collection of people who loved their dogs and enjoyed the comradeship of other people who liked training their dogs. But it has not always been about the dogs and our fascination with them and enjoyment in training them. In the beginning it was just obedience and promoting a well-trained dog that brought people together. Even before the group had incorporated or had a training hall they also offered their skills to the public so they too could have a better pet and more fully appreciate their dogs.

From the beginning, the purpose of the Club has been to promote obedience training and make dogs better citizens. Over the years the Club has never wavered from that purpose and has been responsible for the training of thousands of dogs. The one characteristic of the Club instructors has been their willingness to d0nate their time in order to impart their knowledge to other handlers, whether Club members or the public.

Early records show that the newly formed group elected their first officer in November of 1948. Lt. Col. G.H. Mueller was elected the first president; T.J. Burger Jr. first vice president; Marvin Hall, second vice president; Dorothy Briggs, secretary; and Mary Jane Rodgers, treasurer.

Col. Mueller was an avid spokesman for the club, and the Spokesman Review carried a number of articles about upcoming classes. Because the group did not have a hall, they held their first classes at the Armory (now where Laser Quest is located.) Charge for a ten-week course was $10. Dogs were featured in the newspapers in those days by showing pictures of the winners in various classes! Breeds featured in the photos were Standard Schnauzer, Golden Retriever, Weimeraner, Samoyed, and Boston Terrier.

Plan A Sanctioned Obedience Trial sponsored by AKC was held on February 12, 1950 at the Spokane Armory. Entered were 16 dogs in Novice A, 1 in Open A, 2 in Open B, and 2 in Utility. A Poodle, owned by Peggy Cornell, was high in trial with a score of 199. It is surmised that individuals came to Spokane who had prior obedience experience since there were entries in Utility. The very first AKC licensed trial was held on September 24, 1955 and the club has been sponsoring two trials a year during most years since that date.

Spokane Dog Training Club Locations

The group used a variety of rooms to hold classes, including the old YMCA and the Knights of Pythias Hall on W. Riverside. Rooms available only allowed the Club to offer classes one night per week. According to old articles there were at least 30 people in some of the beginners' classes. When that hall was sold, the group was again on the search for a place. A building at E. 2006 Sprague was located and was one the group could afford. When they moved in, they had to tear out a stage and closets. There were no bathrooms or a kitchen. These facilities were added later. The Knights of Pythias gave the club the "infamous" green benches.

For those of you who remember them, they were home to many a dog and a few million fleas. The couches were moved to new quarters on East Trent and, after several years they met their death. The hall on East Sprague was located up two flights of stairs so any dog regularly frequenting classes had to learn to negotiate those stairs. Later members would curse the decision of earlier members to have a second story location.

Speaking of stairs, anything coming or going out of the club had to be taken up or down those stairs. Some members did get pretty ingenious especially with the show equipment. The Club used to have long heavy metal rods for rings, with fancy striped ring curtains. Ring equipment was often passed out of the windows to waiting trucks below. The hall had a definite ambience, as it was located over a bar below. We did not need music as the jukebox below could be heard quite plainly on the second floor.

The club members remained at the East Sprague location until the summer of 1985. The neighborhood did go through transition over this period of time. For a few years it was a well-known "red light" district. One had only to look out the front windows to see the hookers. One could say that we had our own built in entertainment if we got tired of training the dogs. Towards the last we even had drunks who fell asleep on the front doorstep that the dogs and handler had to negotiate around.

One of the things that forcibly got us to move were two fires on the main floor below the Club, which could have burned what belongings we did have. By the time of the first fire (May 1984), we had many pictures of dogs on the walls. The Club had begun a project of replacing the old wood frames with nice shiny frames, like the ones we use today, made of plastic! A wise choice given the Hall's luck with fires. Fortunately, the frames never melted.

The second fire occurred on the night before we were to have a Bob Self seminar at the hall. Although the Club did not sustain any fire damage the smell of smoke was overwhelming. Our friends at Lilac City let us use their hall. Two of the club members started calling the participants at 5 a.m. to let them know of the location change. A disaster averted. By the time of the second fire (May 1985,) the handwriting was on the wall. Classes were located temporarily at a grange hall until structural damage to the building could be completed. A search began for new quarters. The cost of the rent was a big factor plus facilities that would accommodate the classes.

The club did locate a new facility and moved during the summer of 1985 to the location at E. 6905 Trent. The new area was on the main floor, had one bathroom and no kitchen nor storage area but was a big improvement. It was newer and located in a better area just off Trent. A former member, Lance Elliot, who did general contracting at the time, did the bulk of the interior remodeling. He added a storeroom and was the instigator to get the inside painted and means of hanging the pictures. He did the big signs and one now hangs in the present hall with large letters of our name. He had quite a story. On one Sunday he was working alone and hard the frantic screaming of a woman outside. Her husband was ill and was unconscious. Being a responsible person he dashed to her house across the street and found the man was not breathing and no pulse. He had been trained in CPR and revived the man. When the medics arrived they were amazed by what he had done. Lance wanted me to know that it had slowed his work up a little.

As early as 1991 one of our long term Club members, George Pullman, felt that we should set up a building fund. We had paid rent for too many years and should make an active search for property that the Club could afford. George planted the seed, but it took awhile to germinate. Part of the issue was finding the right location for our customers, correct zoning and a price that was realistic for us. It would be a major step but was well received by the membership as many had wished we had done it many years earlier. The present land was purchased in October of 1994. Improvements on the property began in 1995 and 1996 with leveling, de-weeding, fencing, planting grass and adding a sprinkler system. A shed was built to store agility equipment in 1997. The agility classes could now be held on the property.

Spokane Dog Training Club Functions

The East Sprague hall had a kitchen, which was often used for lunches and most fondly, the big Christmas party and awards night. It was quite an event. People really got dressed up; sometimes it was hard to recognize who was who, since they had such different clothes and their dogs were not with them. Members helped prepare a big dinner, and then we had awards and dancing. One of our earliest members, Barbara Kuhl, now grown up and known as Barbara Davis, brought her bluegrass band to play for the events. Many of the awards given are the same as we recognize today. Originally we only gave awards for obedience degrees and fairly early on tracking degrees were recognized. Tracking was not always popular so degrees were not earned for a number of years. The Phideaux Award was given as early as 1965 and continues to be valued by any member receiving it. Handlers were always excited to get their one special picture of their dog, and later to see the picture hanging on the wall of the Club; a great tradition that continues on until present. Member received many awards in obedience, comparable with today's numbers. In 1974, members earned 25 CD's, 6 CDX's and 5 UD's. Of course they did not have other distractions such as agility, herding or rally.

Another tradition that continues is the Club's newsletter, K-9 Tails ( do not the exact date of its beginning.) The early K-9 Tails had pictures and, of course in the 60's and 70's, had to be taken to a print shop before they were ready for mailing. The content always has been information about members' accomplishments at shows, obedience classes and articles about the care of our four-legged friends. The K-9 Tails has gone through many transitions dependent upon the editors. It continues to be the means of communication among the members and keeps them informed about the many events now available to dog handlers.

And that logo you see on everything was developed in 1970 by Doris Woodward. The silhouettes you see are a German Shepherd owned by Kathryn Marshall and an Italian Greyhound owned by Doris Woodward.

Other activities included a drill team that performed at the 1974 Expo at Riverfront Park. A picture of the team can be seen at the club. Starting in September of 1975, the Club decided to have a booth at the Spokane Interstate Fair. We started with a little wooden shanty and gradually evolved to a great trailer (now used for storage.) We had many locations, but for some the last location next to the beer garden was their favorite. Many of you will probably remember that time as we manned a booth for 10 days during the Fair and presented many demonstrations. It was good advertisement for classes. We discontinued the Fair Booth in 1995 when the management at the Fairgrounds put too many restrictions on the Club. We no longer needed the advertisement for our classes.

In the early 1980s scent hurdle racing was instituted. Each team had 4 dogs and raced against each other for the best time. The dogs had to jump but the biggest challenge was that four scented dumbbells were placed in a box and the dog had to pick the one with the handler's scent on it. Handlers could encourage from behind the start line. It made a great demonstration as the dogs seldom did what was expected.

Spokane Dog Training Club Members

Although training dogs was the emphasis, it has been the wonderful people through the years that have sustained the club. Books could be written about all the dogs but without the devotion of club members we would not have such a lengthy history. There are five members who still remain members from the 1960's. Not sure if they are just nuts or cannot leave the club. Our oldest member is Vi Flick, age 97. She resides in Oregon but remembers activities and events at the club. She got involved, as her husband, Al Flick, was very active in SDTC. Other long-term members are Doris Woodward, Barbara Davis, Beverly Johnson and Joyce Ostby.

Early members that were the building blocks for the current Club were Ken Nelson, Kathryn Marshall, Basil Orr and Al Flick. They all served in a variety of jobs and were willing to help where needed. When I joined the Club Ken Nelson was Director of Training and had a large impact on me, as he was a very gentle, kind, intelligent trainer. I still remember the time a bunch of us went to the Portland shows and Ken put a UD on his Doberman Pinscher in 3 shows straight: I was impressed. He was great as an instructor and gave me a start and model to follow when I began teaching classes. He was also responsible for the dog photographs: some still hang on the walls or are in books in the meeting room.

Kathryn Marshall was a great trainer and obtained many degrees, including the first OTCH earned by a Club member. Her pictures are still on the walls. She also was editor of the K-9 Tails for many years, a licensed AKC judge and early Director of Training. Basil Orr was active in the club for many years, serving as the first president and several times in later years, plus was Director of Training several times. He was also a licensed AKC judge.

Al Flick came to Spokane already a licensed AKC judge and served as President for several years. He was primarily responsible for the initial bylaws, many of which remain today. He was the one who got me into judging as he grabbed me one day at a fun match. He was tired towards the end of the day, so threw me into judging for him. I got hooked and that is how I started judging. It was a crazy class that I have never seen since. The handlers worked each other's dogs in Novice so it was a little hard to judge since most of the dogs were trying to figure out what happened to their handlers.

Doris Woodward (formally known as Doris Gibb) has always been there for the club, training her own dogs, being on the board as Secretary, and the big one - being the Secretary for countless obedience trials. She also made sure that the printing was done for K-9 Tails and the show catalogues until we had the Browns for our show superintendents. Barb Davis joined the club as a young girl and her dad Wes used to bring her and those darn Wirehaired Fox Terriers to train. When she could drive, a key to the Club was a big deal and she would come to train her dogs by herself and contemplate the world. She also served as editor of the K-9 Tails. Bev Johnson initially interested a few club members in tracking and started the practice of recognizing tracking degrees as an award. She also served as secretary for the club.

In later years, other club members contributed tremendous amounts of time and had a major impact on the direction for the Club. Sharon Nelson joined the Club in 1986 bringing knowledge of animal behavior and training needs of the pet owner. As Director of Training she developed classes that met the needs of our customers who were not there to get ready to enter obedience trials but just wanted a dog that was easier to handle. The classes took on names like home companion, puppy kindergarten and puppy socialization. Her influence changed the direction of the classes up until this day. She also introduced agility and you know where that has gone! Sharon has moved on but did become the founder of NADAC (North American Dog Agility Council).

We had two other members join in the 80's who have had a profound influence and are still active members of the club. Both are darn hard workers, put the interest of the club first and exemplify going above and beyond just being a Club member. They are Barb Benner and Tannis Witherspoon. These two picked up the K-9 Tails in 1990, when it had been dropped for a couple of years, and immediately made it into a first class production. They established a format and style that has been followed for the past 10 plus years. Through the efforts of both, the club has really expanded into other performance events. They not only participated but got others to join too. Both have worked extremely hard to make herding, agility and tracking, solid and well supported events. Both have been very active in the obedience program and have supported the Club whenever the need arose.

Merry Boeck holds the record for longevity as a sole Director of Training. She was able to expand the number of classes we have, incorporating many of the different performance events. She was a great instructor and modeled that, thus helping instructors do a better job. Her impact on our method of teaching classes prevails still today.

I apologize for not mentioning everyone who has contributed throughout the years. I mention what I believe to be the outstanding ones; I know there are many more. It has been a privilege to know you all.

Another member can write the saga of the next fifty years. "Back to your dogs!"

Joyce Ostby

Spokane Dog Training Club's 1st & 2nd AKC Obedience trials

September 24, 1955

The club sponsored their first trial at the Lincoln Heights Betterment Club, located on 27th and Ray Streets in Spokane. The Superintendent was Mrs. Hellen Maring, who resided in Portland, Ore.

The Judges were:

Mr. Joe Brogan - Portland, OR:    11:00 a.m. - 8 Novice B, 16 Novice A
Mrs. Edith Izant - Whittier, CA:   3:00 p.m. - 4 Open A, 5 Open B
Total Entry of dogs: 33

High In Trial:

Von Dordich's Mia, score of 195 from Novice A and owned by Dr. F.A. Hunter.

Breeds entered in the Trial:

4 Poodles, 4 Dobermans, 2 Collies, 1 Labrador Retriever, 1 Shetland Sheepdog, 1 Brittany Spaniel, 3 Weimaraners, 5 Cocker Spaniels, 1 Maltese, 3 German Shepherds, 1 Chihuahau, 1 English Cocker Spaniel, 1 Pekingese, and 3 Boxers.

One of the Collies entered was owned by Bonnie Young (Mclaughlin Scollard), who is a current SDTC member. There is an earlier picture (1984) of Bonnie with her collie Shadalon's Sable Serenade.

March 31, 1956

The trial secretary was Mrs. Frank Beeson, Spokane and the event was again held at the Lincoln Heights Betterment Club.

The judge was:

Mr. J.G. Terrance, Beaverton , OR:
11:00 a.m. - 13 Novice A
1:30 p.m. - 5 Novice B, 6 Graduate Novice
3:00 p.m. - 6 Open A, 5 Open B.

29 Dogs were entered for a total of 35 entries.

High in Trial was awarded to a Standard Poodle, Cornell's Brown Baron. The dog was owned by Margaret and Richard Cornell and scored 198 from the Open A Class. Bonnie Young, who is a current SDTC member, was again entered in the Novice B class with the same Collie.

The shows have been held in a variety of locations but eventually have been held since 1997 at the Club's property. Currently the Club presents two AKC obedience trials per year, two AKC tracking test per year, two AKC agility trials per year and an AKC herding trial on Labor Day weekend.