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Unique Latrobe venue to host dog agility trials

| Tuesday, April 24, 2012, 4:28 a.m.

Latrobe is going to be invaded by dogs next month -- lots of dogs.

The B&D Creekside Activity Center, an indoor canine agility training facility at 501 Avenue B, is expecting more than 100 dogs on Feb. 11 and 12 for the Canine Performance Events Inc. agility trials, said Darlene Schmucker, a dog lover and owner of the center.

The competition pits dog owners and their pets against the clock as the dog tries to get the fastest time with the most accurate running of an obstacle course.

The center, named for Schmucker's late husband, Bob, and herself, is inside a brightly lit, 100-by-250-foot building that appears from the outside to be a skating rink. Schmucker has artificial turf on the floor, and the space is divided into two 100-by-100-foot agility rings and an obstacle course for the dogs to navigate in training and competition.

Another canine agility competition, the U.S. Dog Agility Association Trials on March 3 and 4, is likely to attract a few hundred dogs and their owners from across the eastern United States, Schmucker said.

Schmucker, 45, said she and her husband, who died in October 2010, decided to build the canine activity center because they had been traveling as far as Ohio and Maryland to enter their Yorkshire terrier, Dexter, in canine competitions. It was their dream to build the activity center, and they put it next to their precision machine business, Arc-Master Enterprises Inc.

"I miss him all the time," Schmucker said of her late husband, whom she married on July 7, 2007. "This is his dog. I'm training her for him (Bob)," Darlene said, while holding Dexter.

Background info

Construction of the $4 million project began in 2009 and was completed in May 2011. The demand from dog trainers for an indoor training facility, and as a site for dog competition events, proves the need for such a venue, Schmucker said.

"This place is unique. There's nothing like it in Westmoreland County or the region," Schmucker said.

One of the dog agility trainers using the facility, Kathi Scherf of Delmont, said the place is "like a dream come true.

"I call it the Taj Mahal of dog facilities. We're truly blessed that she built it," said Scherf, who has been a trainer for about 15 years.

Scherf, president of the Westmoreland County Obedience Training Club, said the club will be sponsoring the Westmoreland County American Kennel Club Agility Trials at the center Feb. 25-26.

Schmucker said she is planning to expand the activity at the center by opening a restaurant this year on the first floor of the building, with a bar on the second floor. That would give dog owners who come to competition an opportunity to get refreshments and watch events.

Schmucker obtained a liquor license last year from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board under the name of Dexter's Deck Inc., aptly named for her dog. She hopes to have the restaurant and bar open by October, in time for another competition, the Tea Cup Regionals, a competition for small dogs.

Branching out

While the activity center was designed for canine training and hosting dog competition, Schmucker said it is used for girls softball practice by a traveling team.

She had been approached by Seton Hill University and St. Vincent College to use the activity center for sports such as soccer, softball and girls field hockey, but she decided against it because lines would have to be painted on the field and the dog competition rings would have to be dismantled before each use.

But Schmucker said she is considering building an indoor recreational facility on some of the 17 acres of land available for development between the activity center and Loyalhanna Creek. That project, however, is a few years down the road.

"That's what I'm aiming to do," she said.

Her family has been supportive of the initiative.

"I could not do it without them," Schmucker said.

But Schmucker said she has met with resistance from community banks when she sought to get financing, particularly after the death of her husband.

"They told me I could not do it," Schmucker said. "That just gave me the drive to do it.

"Just because I am a woman, doesn't mean I could not do it," Schmucker said.

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