By SCOTT PESZNECKER
Preparing a drill team to march in the Murphys Irish Days Parade is no easy feat especially if half your group has paws.
That's how it is for the Doggone Good Drill Team, composed of eight Calaveras canines and their owners.
"I think it's harder for the people," said Mountain Ranch resident Sandra Morrison, who was elected team captain by other drill team members and formed their routine.
"The dogs just kind of follow along."
The doggie drill team has practiced inside the Native Sons Hall on Murphys' Main Street, and has its last pre-parade tune-up tonight.
"It's so much more fun than I thought it would be, and the dogs are doing so much better than I thought they would," said Arnold resident Abigail Howard, 62, with her boxer-Jack Russell mix, Jenny Lind.
The key to training: repetition for both human and dog.
Over and over again to the tune of radio hit "Who Let the Dogs Out" the drill team practiced its routine last week.
Keeping their dogs close to their hips, the owners stood side-by-side across the Native Sons Hall and walked forward, peeling off into two single-file lines. The two groups stood facing each other from across the room before walking to the middle of the floor to do-sa-do (a square-dance move). The routine was topped off when the two lines wove through each other without breaking ranks.
Once or twice, the drill team's human members forgot which way to walk or weave.
"It was really disorganized in the beginning, but it's coming along," said 11-year-old Traci Bird of Murphys, who practiced with Riv, a 3-year-old Australian cattle dog mix.
And there was an instance when Howard's dog, Jenny Lind, was distracted from the do-sa-do by a treat left on the floor.
Other than that and the occasional exchange of barks and growls the routine went fairly smoothly.
"This is my first try at a drill team," said Patty Johnston, 50, of Mountain Ranch, accompanied by Phoenix, a blue-merle collie. "We'll see how it turns out, and we'll have a good time."