Carmel Canine Sports Center:
A Vision of Happiness
By Cindie Farley
It didn’t occur to me that I would be weeding the first time I visited the site of the new Carmel Canine Sports Center—as yet, still a work in progress. My dog, Gus, and I had been invited out there to meet the place and its people (and canines, of course) so I figured we would take a tour, watch some agility training…that sort of thing. But as we relaxed on the lawn, chatting with Ernie Mill and Ken Ekelund about the farming aspects of the CCSC endeavor, it seemed quite natural to join them in pulling up the broadleaf weeds that were sprouting up in the grass. Well, I joined them, anyway. Gus was more interested in the new sights and smells.
We had received a warm welcome upon our arrival. And the full Border Collie staff was there, including Lizzie, Duffy, Jazz, and Shelby, as well as fifteen-year-old Patty, who is an administrative assistant to Summer in the office. Managing them all is a very capable Cavalier King Charles named Charlie.
I learned from Ernie, who is co-owner of CCSC with Ken and his wife, Martha Diehl, that normally the sheep who reside on the property are in charge of the weeding. But at the moment they were busy being herded about by Duffy. As we weeded, we watched Martha and Duffy work the sheep in an adjacent field. Gus turned his back on that operation, and I wondered if his old herding-dog heart was feeling kind of wistful.
Some years ago, Martha, who is the president of CCSC, saw the need for an outdoor canine facility on the Peninsula. A place where dogs and their people could truly enjoy a variety of canine activities together in a safe and peaceful setting—a place centered ON dogs! It had been a long and sometimes-rough road that led her to the 40 acres of farmland we were sitting in the middle of, but from my vantage point, it seemed like it was surely worth it. And Martha, Ken, and Ernie are dedicated to making sure the sports center will be compatible with the existing qualities of the land, while also being an asset to the community.
CCSC’s lease requires that the property’s heritage of over a century as organic farmland be preserved, something that they are more than happy to accommodate. They have brought in two flocks of sheep, whose services are available for both herding training and maintaining grazing grasses (not to mention sharing their wool), and whose presence alone signals the “rural character” Carmel Valley is proudly known for. Goats—and possibly ducks—will also be added to the staff. Pear trees planted in the 1940s by the property owner’s father still bear fruit, and CCSC has planted an organic vegetable garden, flowers, and nursery stock, as well grass hay on two-thirds of the property.
Bordered on the south by the Carmel River, and with stunning views of the foothills, the property is some distance from the nearest homes. It is surrounded by a barely visible safety fence, and the ample existing and proposed flora screening will allow CCSC to blend further into the landscape on various levels.
CCSC’s concept is to be an outdoor recreation center, dog-training facility, and sports club “where dogs and their people go for active, positive, low-stress fun together.” Using a “country club” model, the center has a goal of 500 memberships and will have a small clubhouse open daily. (And it’s worth noting here that country clubs are inherently rather quiet, respectable places!)
The grounds will be beautifully maintained, and there will be off-lead walking paths, picnic areas, and open exercise space, with members being able to reserve specific ones. There is also a seasonal swimming hole in the river and there will be an irrigation reservoir for swimming dogs. Most canine members will find these even more luxurious than other country club pools on a hot day.
The center will also have social groups available, as well as classes in basic training, socialization, and canine good citizenship. It will also offer competition-grade facilities and equipment for a broad range of canine activities such as agility, herding, obedience, rally, nose work, tracking, field work, lure coursing, fly ball, and dock diving. And—as with other country clubs—the center will periodically host tournaments in their members’ favorite sports.
CCSC’s vision is a simple one: serious fun for you and your dog!
Gus and I had brought out-of-town family with us, and they visited with Ernie’s wife, Gini, while we were there. Before we left, she led all of us over to the other flock of sheep, the “BabydolIs,” so we could feed them. (Or maybe we were all herded by staff and didn’t even realize it . . .) These pint-size sheep, who all had names and had just been sheared, gently ate from our hands.
The weed pulling had turned out to be an excellent way to get to know the place—and it definitely seemed more fun than it does at home. In turn, Martha sent me off with a very fragrant bouquet of nonweeds just picked from the flourishing mass of sweet peas they had planted along one side of the farm.
For information on all aspects of CCSC’s progress, visit:www.carmelcaninesports.com. And don’t miss the link to their Facebook page, which offers a great pictorial history of happiness.