Canine companions key to keeping Valley's youth on track
A DOG doesn't judge and that is what makes a new program for the Valley's youth "unbelievable" according to the participants.
Valley Track is the initiative of David and Christie Bennett to help the Valley's disadvantaged youth.
Mr Bennett has been doing dog trials for more than 20 years and was spurred on to start the program after seeing Backtrack do great things for kids in Armidale.
Valley Track runs weekly programs for youth which teaches them how to look after the dogs, be in control and direct them through a dog trial course.
Mr Bennett said the relationship the participants build with the dogs in the programs is vital.
"They can engage with the dogs and they develop a connection with certain dogs," Mr Bennett said.
He said Valley Track will continue to grow as they gain more support from local organisations.
Whilst still in the fledging stage, the Valley boys cleaned up at the Grafton Show last weekend despite it being a first time in the ring for some.
Charlie Quinlan Laurie came in first place in the Junior Bush Dog Trials on Saturday and Cade Ellem walked away with third place.
Cade said he was excited to be in the competition despite his nerves.
He said working with the dogs since the inception of the program six months ago has been "unbelievable", he enjoyed teaching them new tricks while hanging out with his mates.
Mr Bennett said the excitement the boys had for competition was palpable, and whilst there are no more shows on the horizon just yet, it is only the beginning for Valley Track and there would be much more to come in the near future.
He said a few more beginner trials are in the pipelines to get the participants more familiar with the sport.
Gurehlgam Aboriginal youth empowerment co-ordinator Colin Skinner helps get participants to and from the program each week.
He said it gave the boys something "they could look forward to".