60th Anniversary of First AKC Obedience Trial in Alaska

Happy anniversary, Dog Obedience Training Club of Anchorage, Inc.!

The club, which was formed before Alaska even achieved statehood, is celebrating 60 years of AKC obedience trials this October. Vice President and Trial Chairperson Rose Munafo shared this great look back at the club's past with us :  

In the winter of 1950-1951, a group of friends got together to form the Obedience Training Club of Anchorage, the name the club went by for several years. 

That January remains in the top ten coldest Januarys in Anchorage, reaching minus 32 degrees on January 18 & 19, 1951. Anchorage at that time was a small city by lower 48 standards. The largest city in the Territory of Alaska did not have many amenities.   

The city had gotten its first traffic light in 1949 and still had many gravel roads, some of which would still be in use in the mid-1970’s. 

The cost of living at that time was about three times higher than in the lower 48 states. 

The first television station would not come on air until two years later in December 1953.  

Needless to say, all of these conditions were conducive to friends getting together to develop activities for their spare time. The first AKC Obedience Trial was held on September 5, 1954 at the hockey rink in downtown Anchorage. 

This area is an 11-block area that was established as part of the original township in 1917. 

It was originally Anchorage’s airfield, as well as being a golf course in later years.  

The area, known as the Delaney Park Strip after an early mayor, remains a central meeting place for ceremonies and festivities in downtown Anchorage today. 

At the first trial, only Novice A and B were offered. 

There were only two dogs that would be eligible to compete in the higher classes at that time and it was cost-prohibitive to fly up a judge that was approved for higher classes in order to cover those two entries.

The photo of the qualifiers from the first trial includes the following (from left to right):  Harry Braun & Corsair, Maralee Columbia & Blitzen, Barbara Berg & Sassie, Judge Mrs. Marjorie E. B. Hess, Jean Sellens & Yakatat, Barbara Ann Berg & Gay, Barbara Parker & Rex, Kit McInnes & Oslo, Roberta Goldberg & Mike.

The photo of the qualifiers from the first trial includes the following (from left to right): Harry Braun & Corsair, Maralee Columbia & Blitzen, Barbara Berg & Sassie, Judge Mrs. Marjorie E. B. Hess, Jean Sellens & Yakatat, Barbara Ann Berg & Gay, Barbara Parker & Rex, Kit McInnes & Oslo, Roberta Goldberg & Mike.[/caption] The club continued and grew after the first trial. 

It offered classes at various facilities throughout Anchorage through the years.  It is difficult to trace the history of the club in the early years.  What limited information the club has comes from Maralee Columbia, a founding member who is now deceased. 

About ten years ago, she dictated a short history of the early years.   

On Good Friday, March 27, 1964, a 9.2 earthquake hit Alaska, with its epicenter 75 miles from Anchorage. 

This was the most powerful earthquake in North American history and the second strongest in recorded history for the world.  At that time, the club’s records were stored in club secretary Lillian Fried’s basement. 

When the earthquake hit, her house and all its contents were buried in Turnagain Arm, a narrow branch of Cook Inlet. 

Presumably, the Club’s records are still there. 

Julie Durych, a member since 1966, recalls that one “requirement” for joining DOTCA in the early days was based on your ability to play bridge (winters are long here). In March 1967, the club was incorporated by the State of Alaska as the Dog Obedience Training Club of Anchorage. 

The club continued its activities of teaching classes and offering obedience trials throughout the years. 

It offered the first Rally trial in Alaska in February 2005 and ventured into offering Agility trials for several years. 

The Club continues to offer AKC obedience and rally trials in Alaska. 

The winter trials are held on the same weekend that the Iditarod Sled Dog race begins in downtown Anchorage. By starting the Saturday trial in the afternoon, the judges can watch the start of the Iditarod. The opportunity to watch a world-class sled dog event has enabled DOTCA to attract judges from all parts of the country.

The October trials help dog handlers make the transition to the long winter days and indoor trials. We will celebrate our anniversary on October 18, 2014 by inviting all of the Alaska dog community to join us for cake and stories. We are using the photo of the participants in 1954’s first trial to make t-shirts to commemorate this milestone.