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Thank You to Retiring Judge Darlene Woz!

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 2007.

She's Darlene Woz, and one of the most interesting and influential people the sport of dog agility has even seen.

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 less!

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 Champion title.

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 about Darlene:

  • Darlene 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!"

  • Darlene 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!"

  • Darlene 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!


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