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Friday February 5th, 2016 5:22PM

Commerce canine is 'top dog' at Ala. dog trials

By The Associated Press
TOWN CREEK, Ala. (AP) -- A smile automatically flashes on Frank Arnau's face when he begins talking about working with his bird dogs.

"It's a joy; it's something I've been doing a long time and I really love it," said Arnau, a resident of Commerce, Ga. "I've got six dogs and I look forward to being with them."

And he's pretty good at it, too.

Arnau, 83, defeated 52 other entries earlier this week to win the seniors division in the United Field Trialers Association's 2013 Nationals.

Competitors are involved in four other divisions of the competition being held at the Doublehead Resort near Town Creek.

"I'm the oldest one in the competition and the oldest to ever win one of the divisions," said Arnau, who also serves as the organization's treasurer.

Melissa Bunnell, event coordinator at the Doublehead Resort, said the nationals have been held there since 2008. Handlers from 25 states and Canada are in this year's competition.

Association president Jeff Beasley of Indiana said there are about 350 dogs in this year's competition. This is the 12th national event.

Handlers and their dogs qualified for this competition through events held throughout the United States earlier in the year.

The competition is based on the skills of the dogs and their handlers and their ability to work together.

Beasley said the dogs and handlers have 15 minutes to find three quail.

"The dogs have to point and flush the birds," Arnau said. "Then, the handler has to shoot the bird and the dog must retrieve it."

Beasley said it takes an average of six or seven minutes for a handler and dog to complete a round.

He said the sport is gaining in popularity.

"We have more young people and women competing this year than in past years. They're getting involved and that's really opening the door for a lot of people to see what the sport is about," explained Arnau.

Arnau said he's been bird hunting and running dogs since he was a boy.

"I grew up doing this," he said. "I love being in the fields and seeing dogs work. It's fun and relaxing, and it gives me exercise. It keeps me young."

The competition continues through Saturday when the Open Class championships are decided.
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