Rescue Dog Wins First Agility Championship

Deb Russell and her dog Jenni are shown at the NADAC Competitive Edge Agility and Dog Sports Trial in Louisville, Kentucky, where the pair won a national award. They are shown with their ribbons and a decorated jump bar, all presented by one of the judges at the competition. This photo of Jenni clearing a jump was taken at the 2018 NADAC Championships in Louisville, Kentucky. Agility competitions take place on an obstacle course where the owner directs the dog off-leash. There are a variety of obstacles including weave poles, A-frames, tunnels and jumps.

By Susan Thompson 

I admit it—I’m a dog lover. So when a dog I’ve featured twice in the Lake Panorama Times achieves something great, I assume there are other dog lovers who want to read about it. I first introduced you to Jenni in February 2015, with an update in November 2016. 

Wayne and Deb Russell built a house on Lake Panorama’s Burchfield Cove nearly 20 years ago. It’s been seven years since they discovered Jenni abandoned at the dog park in Perry, and adopted her. Jenni has the face of a Black Lab, but is smaller and leaner. A veterinarian said she probably is part whippet, which are extremely fast dogs, capable of reaching speeds up to 35 miles per hour. 

While attending obedience classes with Jenni, Deb watched a nearby dog agility training session and decided she’d like to try it. Deb and Jenni took a foundation agility training class, which launched the duo into national competition. 

Agility training takes place on an obstacle course where the owner directs the dog off-leash. There are a variety of obstacles including weave poles, A-frames, tunnels and jumps. The goal is to complete the obstacles in the shortest time without making a mistake. 

Each event is unique, with different course elements and time limits. A course map is posted a few minutes before competition begins. Deb walks the course, which is laid out with numbered cones. She must memorize the order of the cones, and develop a strategy on how to guide Jenni. 

Jenni and Deb compete at trials sanctioned by the North American Dog Agility Council (NADAC). Since Jenni has advanced to the elite category, her points count towards earning the NADAC Agility Trial Championship Award (NATCH). Once a dog reaches a set point level in each of three categories, a NATCH is earned. 

Winning that first NATCH was a goal Deb set several years ago. They reached that goal in mid-May in a competition in Louisville, Kentucky. In fact, Jenni was recognized with two NATCH awards there. 

Once she received her first NATCH, she also received a Versatility NATCH. This award requires a set level of points to be earned in three additional categories, beyond the NATCH. Jenni had already earned those additional points, but NADAC rules require a “regular” NATCH be earned first. 

In 2018, Jenni was one of 165 dogs to be invited to NADAC’s national competition in Gillette, Wyoming, where she came in 10thin her division. She already has qualified and been invited to the 2019 national competition, which will be held in Ohio in October. 

Wayne and Deb enjoy traveling, so taking Jenni to competitions has become a big part of their retirement. Jenni and Deb now have competed in 14 different states. “We have been committed to take Jenni as far as she is capable of going in this sport,” says Deb. “It has been a blast!” 

And they’re not done. Deb says the next goal is to win three more NATCH awards, which would put Jenni into the NADAC Hall of Fame. When Jenni reaches that goal, you can bet I’ll write about it.