Posted Date: December 21, 2015
A tribute to retiring judge Darlene Woz, a true Pioneer of Dog Agility.
Thank you, Darlene!
She's the reason there's
a rule in Snooker that doesn't allow more the four reds in the opening. She
coined the term "Run Agility Naked." She was the first person Ken Tatsch ever asked
to judge the Grand Prix (other than himself) when it was held in Houston. She
is a true Pioneer of Dog Agility and was inducted into USDAA's Hall of Fame in
She's Darlene Woz, and
one of the most interesting and influential people the sport of dog agility has
This past November, Darlene hung up her
judging whistle for the final time after she helped celebrate BRAT's 25th
Anniversary in San Antonio.
Her agility career all started when Mary Jones moved back to
Michigan from Texas in 1986 and
called around different obedience training places to see if anyone wanted to do
agility. Mary had been part of the first agility demos when USDAA was
just getting started in the
Dallas area. Darlene was competing in flyball at the time and doing
demos for Super Dogs.
When Darlene heard about this new sport "agility" from Mary, of course she had to give it a try. She immediately knew
it was perfect for her and her dogs.
Darlene is known as an independent, entrepreneurial-type.
And since she was so excited and motivated about agility, she formed Canine
Combustion Dog Agility Club
in Michigan along with Charlotte
Coviak, Lesa McCann and Mary Cox. (Theyll be celebrating this milestone
at their May 2016 trial.)
Shortly after, Ken Tatsch came to visit
to do a seminar and help with the group's first event, which was held in a
local high school gym. Back in those days you could qualify with 20 faults or
A few years later, Darlene and three friends traveled to
Houston for a seminar with Peter Lewis. A short time later she was judging
regularly and competing with her amazing Dalmatians.
Darlene supported her agility habit with
a variety of businesses.
First it was a screen printing business which created the "Run Agility Naked" t-shirts. This morphed into an embroidery business and the start of all the
really cool agility shirts we love and wear on a regular basis today. She is
currently operating Rubber on the Run and supplying competitors, clubs and
groups with high quality rubber surfacing for agility obstacles.
As the years went by and
more judges came on the scene, Darlene relaxed a bit on her judging schedule to
spend more time working and competing with her dogs. Having fewer judging
assignments also allowed her to be more creative in her course designs, especially
when it came to Snooker.
Slowly, she started
incorporating more interesting and thought-provoking challenges in her Snooker courses. Competitors
also began talking about "Woz Snooker Rules" which varied slightly from course
to course, earning Darlene the perfect nickname of "Snooker Queen".
Darlene says her Snooker
designs were inspired by wanting more variety and providing an opportunity for
all types of dogs to qualify and earned Super Q's. Legend has it, if you could
master a Woz Snooker course, you truly understood how to play the game.
Don't let the title
Snooker Queen fool you though. In true Darlene fashion, she graciously shares her
knowledge with anyone who asks or appears frustrated with this particular game.
There are countless people all over the U.S. who credit Darlene for helping
them learn, understand and love Snooker and for earning the coveted Agility Dog
Darlene's Final Two Snooker Courses:
Darlene has been married
for 33 years. She met her husband when she was a sales person for a home alarm
system company. She purposely forgot to include a few parts in his order so she
would have to return to his house to see him again. It worked. Together they
picked out their first family pet, a Dalmatian they named Dotty, and the rest is history. Dotty was four-years-old when USDAA
started, so a perfect age to train and run in this new sport! Dotty earned her AD
on Darlene's 40th birthday! (It only took earning one standard leg
to get an AD in the beginning days of USDAA titling, and her run was a
blistering 89.90 out of a 90 sec. SCT!)
Some other fun stories
has several games she created in the Agility Games book Stuart Mah wrote years
ago. One was the Pretzel Tunnel game - no jumps, only tunnels and weaves with
some handler restrictions requiring jumping jacks, and Double Dog Dare You.
Back in the beginning days there was extra time at many shows to make up
games to play. Darlene says, "I loved thinking up new challenges for fun!"
jokingly says she "still probably still holds the record for skunking a
gamblers class; show in CA, 91 dogs in the Masters Gamblers class, and not one
qualifier. Used the same course at a
show in FL months earlier (back before courses were quickly shared via the
internet), and had a 50% Q rate. Go figure!"
says she's "also probably the only judge that's been streaked while judging
(and I have the photos to prove it!). At a show in California, in Master Gamblers Terry Simons came to the start line with a trench coat on. Timer says go, he
drops the trench coat, and takes off with his Toller, Rembrandt, with just a pair
of smiley face boxer shorts on. He needed the Q to finish his title, but he was
more intent on setting me up to be streaked! It worked - what a great memory!"
Even though the agility
landscape has changed for the better over the years, Darlene's contributions in
the early days are still the foundation of what the sport is today. Her
fundamentals of instilling that every competitor should know and understand their dog, enjoying training their dog and
learning together are the keys to success. Stepping to the start line at a show
is the end result and there is no greater honor.
Thank you Darlene for all
you've done for dog agility! Your creative ingenuity has inspired others to
follow in your footsteps. While we will miss you on the judging circuit, we
know you are still contributing to the sport by researching and developing the
best and safest equipment for our dogs.
Enjoy your retirement!