MOORHEAD — It was a matter of only two seconds.
If Allison Case of Moorhead and her human remains detection dog Niko had been just that much faster they would have won $10,000 in the season premiere of "America's Top Dog" on the Arts and Entertainment network that aired Tuesday night, July 20.
Another $5,000 would have been given to Case's favorite animal charity.
The pair won the first round of competition against another duo in the "working dogs'" category as they were timed through a rough and tumble obstacle course. The duo, however, lost out in the second round in the "dog house" part of the show that was also timed and featured a series of obstacles.
Niko, a 7-year-old Belgian Malinois/German shepherd mix weighing 82 pounds and standing 26 inches high, is a certified cadaver dog who can track down any type of human remains including bones and teeth. Case said the work of her and her dog as members of the Valley Water Rescue Canine Search Team that serves Cass and Clay counties can provide closure for a family who has suffered the tragedy of losing a loved one.
In Tuesday's show, Niko easily won the first round over a dog called Riot, who didn't finish the course, with a time of 2 minutes and 15 seconds.
The course included racing through six obstacles, jumping over three brick walls, zig-zagging through a teeter-totter test, running up and down a fire escape, opening a 120-pound garage door by pulling down on a rope, racing across a shaky wooden bridge and then finally splashing through a water hole to the finish line.
Case and Niko then competed against the first round winners of the "police K-9" and the "underdog" categories in the "dog house" course.
That part of the competition involved breezing down an 80-foot zip line with their dogs in tow, breaking down a door, searching for two scented keys hidden in a room-like setting, having their dogs climb a spiral staircase without their handlers, doing a low crawl, winding their way through a spider web and then having their dogs do a "takedown" on a human as they would in catching a criminal.
The winner in that second round was the "underdog" called Greymane from Henderson, Nev., who had a time of 2 minutes and 49 seconds. Niko and Case's time was 2 minutes and 51 seconds.
Greymane and her handler will advance to the show's finale to seek a prize of $20,000 and the title of "America's Top Dog."
Show host Curt Menefee said he could see the strong bond between Case and her dog as they raced through the courses.
"As soon as she says something, he does it," said Menefee, known for his work as the host of an NFL pregame show.
Case said during the show that with the help of her husband, William, they did practice on an obstacle course in Moorhead before the competition.