Hundreds of dogs descend upon Hebron for the Yankee JR Terrier trial

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Hebron - posted Tue., Aug. 13, 2013
At age 13 and after five rounds of chemotherapy, little Tanner still had plenty of energy as he completed the agility course at the Yankee Jack Russell Terrier Club trials on Aug. 11. Photos by Melanie Savage.
At age 13 and after five rounds of chemotherapy, little Tanner still had plenty of energy as he completed the agility course at the Yankee Jack Russell Terrier Club trials on Aug. 11. Photos by Melanie Savage.

Tanner bounded enthusiastically through an agility course set up near the main entrance to the Hebron Lions Club fairgrounds on Aug. 11. It took him a few tries to get through some of the obstacles (the weave poles and a couple of the hurdles proved especially challenging), but the little Jack Russell Terrier’s enthusiasm never wavered. And, with the guidance of his owner, Susan Riley from Wilmington, Mass., Tanner eventually completed the course. Tanner’s tenacity and energy level were rendered all the more remarkable by Riley’s revelation after he exited the ring. Not only is Tanner, who has been competing in agility since he was a puppy, more than 13 years old, but he was recently diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on his spleen and has undergone five rounds of chemotherapy, according to his owner. “This may be his swan song,” said Riley.

Energy, tenacity and a cheerful disposition are all hallmarks of the Jack Russell Terrier, a breed celebrated at a trial sponsored by the Yankee Jack Russell Terrier Network, an affiliate of the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America. Taking place the weekend of Aug. 10 at the Hebron Lions Club fairgrounds, the trial drew dogs from all over New England and beyond, according to trial co-chair (along with Lisa Benoit) Don Mumma. “This year we have people from as far away as Texas and Oklahoma,” said Mumma. Mumma said that more than 200 dogs compete each day in a variety of events - some sanctioned by the JRT Club of America, others done purely for fun.

Most events capitalize upon instinctual skills intrinsic to the breed, said Mumma. The JRT, a small, sturdy dog dating back to the early 19th century, was developed originally for fox hunting. He would have been brought along on a fox hunt, and if the fox took refuge underground, the fearless, compact JRT would have been sent in to chase him out. Events such as Go-to-Ground and Trailing and Locating require the dog to track and locate prey. Once located, the prey must be obviously identified by the dog. “It’s all about barking at the quarry,” said Mumma.

Events such as Ball Toss and agility allow dog and handler to strengthen their bond, and allow the energetic little canines to burn off energy. JRTs are highly intelligent, but also have a reputation for being willful, like many terrier breeds. “And it’s hard to have just one,” said Mumma. “Most of the people here have more than one dog.”

“You need at least two,” agreed Canterbury resident Jim Muttart, Sr., who had attended the event with his wife, Laila Kokkala, and their two dogs, Shiloh and Wilbur. “My wife did some investigation and that’s what she decided she wanted,” said Muttart, in response to the question, "Why the Jack Russell Terrier?" The couple obtained their first JRT from a rescue.

Seven-year-old Shiloh was obtained as a companion for the rescue. When the original dog was hit by a car, Wilbur entered the picture. Wilbur is Shiloh’s canine sibling, and bit more than a year younger. Wilbur sometimes trains on a treadmill, which helps to burn off some of his energy and also to condition him for events. After a scare at last year’s trial, during which Wilbur collapsed unexpectedly in the heat, he appears to have made a strong recovery. This year Wilbur was named the champion racer in the adult over 12.5 inches category. “He did well this year,” said Muttart.


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