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When you compete at a national level in any dog sport, it takes a special kind of passion and dedication, and Dawn Todd has plenty of both, especially for Flyball.

Todd’s Minnesota-based Flyball team, High Velocity, competes locally and nationally. Most recently, the team, including her husband Eric, took part in the nation’s largest Flyball event, the 2023 CanAm Flyball Classic in Indianapolis, IN.

But being part of the fast-paced world of Flyball for dogs isn’t just about participating at a championship level. Todd loves the challenge of bringing on new dogs and being involved in such a close-knit community. And she does this all while holding down a demanding career as an out-of-hours emergency care veterinarian.

A Chance Introduction Thirty Years Ago Led to Her Flyball Fixation

Todd’s Flyball journey started over 30 years ago when she learned about the sport from a vet tech colleague in her first job after graduating from veterinary school. At that point, Todd had a ball-loving Labrador Retriever named Sampson. Her colleague suggested she come along to one of the club practices, and from there, Todd, her husband, and their dogs have never looked back.

Joe Mutzberg

The Todd Team Line Up

Todd and her husband have six dogs, as well as a talkative Amazon parrot, “Mozart.”. One of their dogs is a a 16-year-old mixed-breed who is retired from Flyball. “A lot of the Flyball dogs live well into their teen years because they’re athletes,” Todd says.

She competes with two other mixed-breed dogs: 8-year-old “Ditto,” and 4-year-old “Jungle.” Todd also has another mixed-breed dog: a one-and-a-half-year-old dog, “Zany,” who she is currently training. “It realistically takes about two years minimum before a dog is ready to go into the lanes and run a full tournament,” she says.

The Todd’s other dogs, a Labrador Retriever, “Karma,” and their Chihuahua, “Viva,” don’t compete in Flyball, but Todd says that Viva does rule their pack despite being the smallest dog.

Fitting Flyball in With A Career as an Emergency Veterinarian

It works out nicely that both Todd and her husband love Flyball. “My job makes it a little tough sometimes because I’m an emergency vet, and I work a lot of weekend shifts, overnights and holidays,” she says. “It’s hard for me to be gone multiple weekends when Flyball tournaments are running.” This is especially true for the bigger competitions that could be a further drive away. When Todd can’t make it, her husband competes, or she sends her dogs with the rest of the team.

Todd plans her work and vacation time around tournaments, jokingly explaining that they are a heavily scheduled family. “A lot of times I’ll work, and then we’ll do Flyball, and then I go back to work,” she says. “I used to be able to do that a lot easier. As I’m getting older, it’s definitely a little tiring, but I make it work.”

Todd also appreciates her coworkers, who understand and support her involvement in the sport. They often switch weekend shifts with her so she can attend major tournaments with the team.

While Todd takes her medical kit with her to competitions, most people are pretty respectful and don’t expect her to offer consultations for their dogs while her team is running. Although, there have been a few emergencies when she has put her skills to use.

Over 20 Years of High Velocity

The team has had some big wins, including taking home the top prize in the 2022 Flyball Dog Challenge tournament. However, Todd finds other aspects of her hobby equally rewarding, particularly being part of an extended Flyball family. She established High Velocity in 2002. While they are a small team of about 12 people, she is proud that the core members are still together after all these years, continuing to compete at a high level.

Todd is also still friends with the team in Michigan she was previously a part of before High Velocity. “I have a lot of littermates of dogs they have, and we host a joint tournament in July.” The tournament, which has been running for 11 years, fuses Flyball with fundraising, with donations going to two local animal shelters.

Todd’s Strong Bond with Her Dogs

And it’s not just the two-legged members of the Flyball community Todd has built strong bonds with. She appreciates the deep connection she has with her dogs as a result of the sport.

She says you really get to know your dog when working through challenges in training and figuring out what motivates them most. “Then you get your dog in the ring and they’re pulling and so excited,” she says. “So, to be out there doing something they enjoy and that you enjoy doing with them, it’s a pretty special bond.”

Todd emphasizes that healthy dogs of all shapes and sizes can participate in Flyball. She has seen every breed, from Pekingese to Great Danes, enjoy racing. If you want to try it, find out more about clubs in your region through the North American Flyball Association.

The Canine Flyball CanAm Classic is coming to your TVs! The nation’s largest Flyball event was held on October 22 in Indianapolis, IN, and premieres on ESPN2 on Sunday, November 5th, at 3pm ET. Don’t miss these speedy dogs in action!