Monterey Bay Dog Training Club marks 50-year anniversary – Santa Cruz Sentinel

Twelve-year-old Crash proudly wears his service dog vest as he takes a command from Crissy Hastings at Pajaro Community Health in Watsonville on Saturday where the Monterey Bay Dog Training Club held its 50th anniversary celebration. (Kevin Johnson -- Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Monterey Bay Dog Training Club founders Dale Kodis, from left, Nancy Lewis and Luane Vidak join in conversation at Pajaro Community Health in Watsonville on Saturday where the dog training club held its 50th anniversary celebration. (Kevin Johnson -- Santa Cruz Sentinel)

WATSONVILLE >> For dogs, it’s been several centuries since the Monterey Bay Dog Training Club began.

In human years, the nonprofit has been around for 50 years. Human members of the organization celebrated the anniversary with a Saturday luncheon packed with memories, food and friends.

The afternoon featured conversations with old colleagues and reminiscing about dogs new and old. Started in 1966, the club had only seven members when it began. Then it was called the Vista del Mar Dog Training Club, said Luane Vidak, a founder member.

“As we first started, we were just interested in being part of a local club,” she said. “Then it became clear that it was going to be more than that.”

As the club grew in popularity, it became associated with the American Kennel Club, which in turn asked the organization to change its name to the Monterey Bay Dog Training Club. Today, the club has more than 50 members in its ranks, not counting the students in the nonprofit’s weekly training programs across the county. For Vidak, she has had more than a dozen of her own dogs go through the program and compete in various competitions hosted by the American Kennel Club.

Stacked on tables were paintings, photos and albums brought my members to showcase the organizations history. Some faded photographs show members standing proud with their dog receiving blue ribbons. Other photos showed dogs leisurely playing with their owners.

Vidak doesn’t have an exact number of the dogs trained through the program but said the number must be in the thousands given the club’s history.

Rosi Gong, 59, came from Gilroy for the event. Gong was a member with the club for more than 10 years and trained two dogs with the program. Browsing a history table, Gong pointed to two photos of her with her dogs.

“It was awesome,” she said. “Everybody is very encouraging and very helpful. Especially if you had a dog that was not easily trainable.”

It was at those frustrating moments that the value of the club would be obvious. Other members would offer different tips and tricks for training dogs, she said.

Gong said coming back to the event drew mixed feelings for her. While she catches up with a lot of old friends, she also noticed the friends and dogs who aren’t there anymore.

“It’s fun and bittersweet at the same time,” she said.

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Despite the focus of the organization, there were no dogs allowed at the event because of the venue’s building restrictions at the Pajaro Valley Community Health Building in Watsonville. But that didn’t put a damper on socializing as members broke the ice by playing a game of guess the dog breed with one another.

Sipping on wine and soda, members laughed with one another and conversation came easily. Vidak said the event

“We’ll have lunch and dessert and then go home and start on the next 50 years,” Vidak said with a laugh.

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