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Training for the big day: a girl and her dog

By Stephen Nellis

Point Reyes Light

June 1, 2006

When Ellie Genazzi of Point Reyes Station was 5 years old, she came across a rabbit at a Halloween fair and asked her mother, Diana Genazzi, if she could have it.

Her mother said to her, “I’ll get you that rabbit if you join 4-H for a year and learn how to take care of it yourself.”

Nine years later, Ellie, now an eighth grader at West Marin School, has a green 4-H cap peppered with award pins for activities from visual arts to marine biology. She has seven awards for perfect attendance at 4-H meetings and, with nine years of membership, she says she’s the longest standing member of the West Marin club.

Although Ellie has presented rabbits, horses, sewing, knitting and photography at fairs past, her only showing at this year’s West Marin 4-H Fair will be her dog, Reggie, a 4-year-old Yorkshire-Maltese mix.

Reggie strains his leash when Ellie walks him. In a barn full of hay, he thrashes the straw with his paws and wriggles free as Ellie tries holding him on her lap.

Ellie orders Reggie to sit and stay, one of the obedience commands he’ll be judged on at Saturday’s fair. Reggie complies and sits, but as soon as Ellie moves he rises to follow her instead of staying in place. That’s something she’ll have to work on for the show, she says.

Reggie will compete against three other dogs in the West Marin fair. Reggie and the others will be judged on their ability to follow commands, perform jumps, maneuver through an obstacle course and walk a narrow beam.

“I like to call West Marin a practice fair because it’s for fun and you’re competing against people from your own club,” Ellie says. “I don’t like to think about what place I might get because I never know.”

Ellie says she hopes that one day she’ll have a 4-H award or honor named after her for the work with the group she’s done and plans to continue.

“I want to have everyone know that I did something great in 4-H. I want other kids who aren’t in 4-H to see me and want to get involved. Just having the kids look up to you is nice.”