Local Business

Perfect Poochies

Local dog trainer teaches people and their pooches how to make the most of their relationship.

The “Bust-up” will feature cowboy shooting in the context of early BC history. At each of the range’s 10 shooting bays, a scenario that highlights points of BC’s past from 1880 to the early 1900s will be read and then followed by a gunfight to be re-enacted by each competitor. The various scenarios will focus on history that includes coal mining, forestry, early settlements and military forts.

“Boomtowns” were towns that sprang up quickly and conveniently in the late 1800s whenever there were discoveries of gold or silver deposits. Cumberland was a boomtown due to the discovery of coal in the area, and the village’s museum is actually providing artefacts to help decorate the shooting range stages authentically.

Competitions will run all weekend and are categorized by gender and age group, as well as different shooting styles, i.e., traditional, frontier cartridge, duellist. In the evening, participants and their families will enjoy meals at the saloon/clubhouse, period music as well as costume and shooting awards. Saturday night will feature a country and western dance with the band Whiskey Creek Run Off in the main clubhouse with free admission to all Courtenay Fish and Game Club members.

“This is the first time on Vancouver Island for the Canadian Championship,” says Peterson. “We’ll be hosting the same thing again next year. So once the word gets out about the facilities here, I think it will be even bigger and better.”

Over the past year the Regulators have been busy constructing their new facility—a CAS range and frontier town. So far the saloon and livery stable are constructed, and 10 shooting bays and the range itself are complete.

“The frontier town is still in the works, as it is a long-term project that will be made up of several buildings including a saloon, a general store, bunkhouse, livery stable and blacksmith,” says Peterson. “Up to this point the place has been built by the CAS members ourselves from our personal and club funds. But we recently received a BC150 grant, so that has been a real shot in the arm, so to speak.”

After a club member heard about the BC150 Celebration Grant Program on the radio, the club applied for and received a $10,000 grant. The program provides funding to locally based projects and events that celebrate the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Crown Colony of British Columbia. In order to qualify for a grant, the organization or projects have to be non-profit, operate primarily for community benefit and have a voluntary, broad-based membership.

The frontier town will be a permanent facility and is open to the public from July 19 to November 30 of this year and again next summer. A good time to check the place out is on the third Saturday of each month, when the Valley Regulators have their monthly fun shoot.

“We get together and compete amongst ourselves and all put in $15 as funds that go toward new targets and construction,” explains Peterson. “We get dressed up on those days, so people can get a real flavour of the sport. It goes all year round and runs from about 9:00 a.m. to early afternoon.”

The Regulators are always looking to have new members and are more than willing to share their expertise. Though it doesn’t cost anything to be a member of the club, you do have to buy a $55 yearly membership with the Courtenay and District Fish and Game Protective Association.

“Anyone who is interested doesn’t need to have any of the firearms,” adds Peterson. “Come on out because cowboys are a bunch of friendly people and we’ll let you try out our firearms under supervision. There are so many models and makes available that we encourage people to come and try out lots of different types before you think about purchasing, because you want something that you will be comfortable with.”

And once you try it, Peterson says it’s hard not to get hooked. “I have been involved in a lot of shooting sports over the years and CAS is the friendliest and least competitive,” he says. “It really is a very relaxing sport, and it’s the kind of sport where you can have the whole family involved.”

In fact, several members of Peterson’s family are regulars at the range, including his 14-year-old daughter Kandice, alias “Itchy Finger.”

“I’ve been shooting for three and a half years. My dad dragged me into it,” Kandice says chuckling.

But she admits that she really likes the sport, especially the family aspect of it. “I like that we can all do it together… and my friends think it’s pretty cool when I say I was out shooting on the weekend—some of them want to try it.”

And the name Itchy Finger?

“I had eczema on one of my fingers and that was before I had an alias, so one of my siblings suggested it, and we thought it was pretty cool name.”

Fellow shooter Shirley Salter, 70, is from Oyster River and a newcomer to cowboy shooting. She says that she likes the sport for the fun and friendly atmosphere.

“I thought target shooting would be enjoyable, so I got myself a little pellet gun and that was fun. So then I got myself a little .22 and I’d come to the range and practice, and that’s where I heard about this.

“This is totally different because they use .38s here, but I just love it. Everyone is so friendly,” says Salter. “And the clothes are fun, too… you want to look the part.”

So, if you are looking to step back in time to an era of adventure and excitement, catch the Cowboy Action at the end of August at the Courtenay Fish and Game Club. Or try your hand at shooting and join the Valley Regulators on the third Saturday of each month—men, women and children are welcome!

For more information about the Bust-up at Boomtown or the Valley Regulators, visit the Valley Regulators web site.
“Dogs get to be dogs,” says Hird of the off-leash wilderness dog walking service she offers for graduates of her obedience classes.  “Having them learn from me, and from the other dogs, makes it much more than just another walk.” Hird takes up to 16 dogs at a time on the two-hour walks.

Megan Hird barks out orders in a firm yet melodic voice, her bare arms planted squarely on her hips and her cropped blond hair flared out from under a green, military-style ball cap. While she wouldn’t look out of place in army fatigues, she’s instead clad in a sporty tank top, black capris and a pair of well-worn sneakers. Dangling at her hip is her sidearm of choice—a climber’s chalk bag full of dog treats.

It’s graduation night for Poochies’ advanced dog obedience class, and six eager canines and their owners will have to show Hird that they’ve earned their diplomas. It’s not going to be easy. Building up from a simple heel, the students will eventually have to show that they’re capable of braking from a full run into a sit, and then remaining calmly seated while their owners march up to 100 metres away and launch into a set of jumping jacks. As if that’s not challenging enough, Hird will be taunting them every step of the way with the aforementioned treats she keeps all too readily available at her hip.

Although she has occasionally been compared to a drill sergeant, albeit a giddy one, Hird is more often referred to as the Comox Valley’s Dog Whisperer, although it’s a comparison she tends to downplay. As the proprietor of Poochies Dog Obedience Training, Hird reckons she’s trained hundreds, possibly even thousands, of animals using a mixture of respect, challenge and praise-based coaching.

“I’m not like the Dog Whisperer on TV where I just jump in and make the dog submit,” Hird says. “I actually earn the dog’s trust. I take the trust first and start working the dog with smaller steps to build up its confidence and trust in me. Then I’ll start challenging it.”

When it comes to training a dog, Hird says, the challenge is what it’s all about.

“Many people don’t give dogs nearly enough credit,” she explains. “They’re extremely intelligent animals and they’re not challenged enough. People will say, ‘It’s just a family dog, it’s just a pet,’ and they’ll leave it in the backyard all day long and never ask anything of it. It’s just like never challenging a person, like having a kid that’s never taught anything new. They can go mentally crazy.

“It’s really sad,” she continues. “There are all these dogs in the pounds for problems that can go away in a week’s time if you just teach them some boundaries and ask a bit more of them. They end up really loving it. A lot of people feel that obedience is a kind of punishment, but really it’s mean not to ask anything of them. They love the bonding, they love the one-on-one time and they love to work.”

Through Poochies, Hird offers private lessons and consultations, as well as a series of group classes ranging from basic obedience training for beginners to advanced obedience and even tricks. In basic obedience, dogs learn commands such as “Sit,” “Down,” and “Come,” and techniques to correct behaviors such as aggression, jumping on people or furniture, begging for food and excessive barking.

Basic obedience classes are held twice a week for six weeks. These twice weekly classes really help to excel the learning rate for people and for dogs, says Hird. Advanced obedience takes those skills to the next level, and the just-for-fun tricks classes teach dogs stunts like rolling over, spinning, weaving through their owners’ legs and jumping through hoops.



Photo by Boomer Jerritt

Graduates from all classes are also welcome to join Hird on her monthly Saturday free class, where they can refresh their skills and catch up with old classmates.

The most talked-about Poochies service, however, is the dog walking. After you’ve completed her basic obedience training, Hird will pick your dog up from your home and take it on a two-hour “wilderness adventure” along the Trent River near Union Bay. Not doing much to allay her comparisons to the Dog Whisperer, the slight-framed 28-year-old takes up to 16 dogs off-leash and never has a problem with dogs misbehaving or running away.

“They’ve got the rules already set in their heads from the group class,” she says confidently, “and so it’s just a matter of enforcing them off leash.”

“It’s pretty cool,” she admits. “Dogs get to be dogs. They spend so much time around people that they don’t really understand how to be like dogs. Having them learn from me, and from the other dogs, makes it much more than just another walk.”