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Jumpin' Juniors!

Our first junior handler round-up. See what USDAA juniors are doing across the US! By Katherine Dattoma

Reports have been coming in from around the country proving how versatile and committed our kids can be to the sport of dog agility. They are training their own dogs, partnering at trials with borrowed dogs, volunteering, raising funds for great causes and persevering through challenges to achieve goals, but most of all, they are having fun!

Ilyse Zincone, from Long Island New York, is proud of her one-daughter cheering committee, 8-year-old Carly.  Since the age of 6 months, Carly has attended numerous agility trials with her parents while her dad competes with their Corgi, Monty.  Carly is learning to handle Monty, and while she lets her dad do the running at USDAA trials for now, she enjoys walking the courses and suggesting strategy.  Carly deserves special thanks for volunteering at every trial she attends!

Emma and Milly on course in 2009. Photo by Bruce Weber, Northwest Dog Shots
Across the country in the Seattle area, Emma Hughes has a best friend, a Sheltie named Milly, who is "a little puffball miracle always up for agility."  First entering the agility ring with her mom's dog before her 5th birthday, Emma is now training her own partner, Milly herself with a little advice from her mom, Margaret.  In May, 8-year-old Emma and 3-year-old Milly earned their PI Standard and Jumper titles at the Red Hot Rovers trial in Washington.  With only a few USDAA trials located in their area, Emma eagerly looks forward to trying another Gamblers class after achieving a third place Q in their first try!

The PawsAPlenty 4H club helped Linda Knowles, of Gold Metal Dog Training in Texas, host an agility fun match.  With the help of 4Hers Jenna Tews, Joshua Hays, Josie Ishmael, Andrea Patell, and Morganne Matthews, the club raised over $300, which was donated to the National Canine Cancer Foundation.  

The First Dog Sports USDAA trial held in Pinetop-Lakeside, Arizona had several entries in their JH classes:

*11-year-old Lily Hanridge qualified the first time out in Junior Beginner and Elementary classes with her dad's dog, Bo. After her run Lily emphatically stated,  "That was fun!"  Mom Amy says Lily loves to run, and loves running Bo because he is fast.  Watch out Dad, it may be time for you to get another dog.

*Sisters Erin and Dani Dyer also borrowed dogs for their runs.  Older sister Dani, age 8, was given the tough job of keeping her "mommy's girl" Jam on task.  Dani had a great time even though Jam stopped to look around for her  "Mom Karen," because "everyone was cheering me and it felt good." Together, the two earned a few bronze medals, and have qualifying scores from previous trials. Karen promises to help Dani walk the course next time.

*Sometimes it is an advantage to be younger.  Erin, who is 7 years old, borrowed Amy Hanridge's dog, Rio.  Erin loves "her Ri Ri," because he "is so fast and so much fun."  Their Q will move the pair into Intermediate at their next Junior Handler trial. 

*Sara Symonds, age 16, entered her dog Betty in both JH classes and Performance level classes.  Betty was an untrained family dog when Sara decided she wanted to do agility.  The pair earned qualifying scores in both the JH classes, plus they got a Performance Jumper first place and Q and their PII Snooker title all at the First Dog trial. In Sara's words, she sums up the value of juniors participating in agility: "Betty is my crazy-but-consistent dog.  She taught me how to have fun and not focus so much on being perfect and winning, patience, to never give up, and how to read your dog.  Without her, I wouldn't have so many fond agility memories and friends."

My own daughter Kayla has had several big agility achievements with her terrier Kimmy this year. Starting at the age of 11, Kayla has competed Kimmy in Performance level classes.  Now 16, Kayla has qualified her dog for the third year in a row for the Cynosport World Games in Performance Speed Jumping and Performance Grand Prix. At the Y Agility trial in New York in May, they earned their first Versatility Tournament Q.  Some other high points were a bye into PGP at the Northeast Regionals and a rocking first round PSJ run, although the final round did not go as planned. Kayla's final goal for the year is to earn that last elusive pairs Q needed for their Performance Championship.

The Minnesota Agility Club 4 Star event held June 4-5 attracted an impressive turnout for their JH classes, with as many as 16 entries.  Leona Hellesvig, judge for the JH classes, credits the large cast of volunteers and 4H supporters as reason for their success.  Giving back to the agility community they grew up in, April Wilson and Caitlyn Varhalla were among the volunteers at the MAC event where they used to compete as junior handlers.  MAC offered the non-titling Gamblers and Jumpers classes for juniors, as well as the titling levels of Beginner, Elementary, Intermediate, and Senior agility.

On Saturday at the MAC event, Brooke Knotek, who is competing with Lady mainly in PII classes, completed her Elementary title after taking a year off from JH classes. After participating in 4H agility and league events for several years, Katie Beckfeld qualified her Kaija in her first try at a USDAA JH event.  An unusual situation occurred when Steffi Woodfill and Brownie completed three titles with one Beginner run by obtaining a Q only recently discovered to be missing, which allowed her to run in Seniors on Sunday. 

Because of a transcribing error, Alexa Doerr moved out of Beginners Saturday, one Q short of the titling requirements.  She and Cisco will have to return to Beginner in their next trial even though they proved equal to the Elementary courses by qualifying Sunday! Mike Hendel and Ozzie's Q rounded out the 8" height group with a 100% Q rate.

All three entries in the Senior Division qualified on Sunday, including Steffi Woodfill and Brownie, after their successful Beginner run Saturday. Having earned their Intermediate titles on Saturday, both Lauren Tebben with Lucky and Megan Nafe with Sampson qualified in their first Senior runs Sunday.  This was a wonderful last JH run for Steffi, before she aged out only five days after the event. Welcome to regular classes Steffi!

Many adults learned that perseverance pays off from watching Gabriella Sundberg.  Her hard work with Ivy showed by their successful partnership in the non-qualifying,  just-for-fun Jumpers class.  

A Q in Elementary earned Saige Bell and Zef a title they truly worked hard for, and their accomplishment was well celebrated.  Congratulations to Jazzmyn Nielsen and Rosa on their new Elementary title as well, and for receiving qualifying scores both Saturday and Sunday.

Willamette Agility Group (WAG) is hosting an agility trial at Pioneer Park, Brownsville, Oregon 8/12/11-8/14/11, complete with JH classes.  Julia DeWitt commented on her club's policy of commitment and support for their JH program.  "To feature Junior Handlers, we (WAG) schedule classes on Friday evening following early trial check-in which gives them the spotlight; they attract an enthusiastic crowd and we adults are always wowed by these talented youngsters."  Several of their juniors attended the NW Regionals this year.  WAG discounts JH entry fees for all juniors (under the age of 19) by 50% entered in regular classes, and a $10 fee includes both rounds of the JHP classes.

Agility parents, be sure to check out the USDAA calendar for upcoming trials featuring JH classes.  Notable for the Northeast, ACE Agility is offering JH classes at their August 27-28 trial held in Westfield, Massachusetts.  The $6 JH entries are a bargain! Consider lending a dog or borrowing a dog to give a child a chance to try competing.

To every child who dared to step out into an agility ring and left without a Q this time: you deserve a great big congratulations!  Why? You are no longer "just a kid with a family pet;" you are junior handlers and you rock!  Keep jumpin'!

Do you have news about a junior handler's accomplishments? Email them to Katherine Dattoma at and you might see them in an upcoming Jumpin' Juniors article!

Katherine Dattoma lives in Cold Spring Harbor with her husband Marc, daughter Kayla, Border Collies Oreo and Ginger, and a Patterdale Terrier, Kimmy. She grew up in suburban Long Island and attended SUNY Cobleskill where she studied Animal Science. The adoption of a rescued Border Collie in 2003 led her to agility. A year later, her daughter Kayla gained her own puppy companion, and started taking agility lessons as well. Together they enjoy frequent traveling to agility competitions. Katnerine now dog sits, train dogs, teaches agility, and is active in dog rescue. She can be reached at or through her website


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