Four locals to compete in AKC National Agility Championships

Competition in the American Kennel Club National Agility Championships will begin Friday in Reno, Nev., and four local women, including two retired Frenship teachers, will be competing with their four-legged friends.

Teresa Janssen, a former Frenship High School teacher, and Mary Lou Vardy, a former Frenship elementary teacher, will compete alongside Acres North veterinarian Ronda Clark and Joann Neal. All four are members of the South Plains Obedience Training Club.

Janssen said she retired from Frenship in 2008, but has been competing in agility competitions since 2005. In the 1970s, she competed in obedience competitions, but children and career soon had her too busy for that.

After her two sons had both left the nest, she got involved again. But a new dog sport had begun to grow. The first American Kennel Club agility trial was held in 1994.

What sounded like something fun that she would like to try turned into a serious interest for Janssen. She has qualified for the AKC Nationals four years in a row, and was invited to the AKC Agility Invitationals in 2009 with her Miniature Schnauzer, Radar.

“I’m telling you what, you get the bug, and it is the most fun I’ve ever had in my life,” Janssen said.

Agility is designed to demonstrate a dog’s willingness to work with its handler in several situations, according to the American Kennel Club website at www.akc.org. Both the dog and handler have to negotiate an obstacle course while racing against the clock.

Janssen said she started in competitions with her first Schnauzer, Beckett. He has now retired, and she is competing with two dogs, Radar, a miniature schnauzer, and Taz, a toy poodle. Janssen inherited Taz from another South Plains Obedience Training Club member, Joy Waggoner.

“She’s a very, very special little dog, because I inherited her from a friend who had cancer,” Janssen said. “This little poodle loves agility like you wouldn’t believe.”

Taz is currently ranked ninth in the nation in a category that includes all poodles. Radar is ranked fifth in the country, but his category consists only of miniature schnauzers, Janssen said.

Vardy will be competing in her very first AKC National Agility Championship with her miniature schnauzer, Britta. Janssen has been Vardy’s mentor and instructor for three years.

Although Vardy is now working at the Bernina Sewing Studio in Lubbock, she said taking on a new hobby in agility competitions was something she began in her retirement from teaching.

Vardy said she had always had dogs as pet, but became interested in competing after talking to a friend about it. But she did not dream she’d be going to the national championship someday.

“Never! Never, never,” she said. “I think it’s exciting to be able to watch all the best dogs in the nation run through the courses.”

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