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Man's best friend: Kane and Hazel head to National Junior Obedience Trials

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When Charlo teen Kane Shenyer and his family adopted their first dog, Hazel, more than three years ago, it was soon obvious that Kane and his new English Springer Spaniel had a strong bond. Since then, the two have been working their way up the ranks in dog obedience shows, and now they have been invited to compete in the top junior competition in the country at the AKC National Junior Obedience Trials in Orlando, Fla., on Dec. 17.

“We just started showing her a couple months after we got her,” Kane said. “We’ve both been working hard. She’s really focused and knows what she’s doing.”

“I wonder what kind of life Hazel would’ve had if we didn’t get her,” Kane’s mother Trina said. “She was so shy at first, but her personality has grown since the training began.”

“You never know what greatness a dog can have until you give them an opportunity,” Life Savers Animal Rescue member Karen Duty said. “We’re all so proud of him for taking a rescue dog, making her part of the family, and taking her to 4-H and making it so far.”

According to Duty, Hazel came from a backyard breeder in Missoula, who got in over his head when an accidental breeding occurred. Due to recent category additions in AKC, more dogs are able to enter competitions.

“Dogs can participate in AKC shows if the dog looks like a registered breed,” Duty said. “The second category is for American shelter dogs.”

In AKC top breed shows in Montana, Kane placed as high scoring junior both days in Great Falls, and took first in high scoring obedience in Helena. Now Kane’s ready to go head-to-head against the top 14 competitors in his class. In Helena and Great Falls, Kane competed against all age groups, but at the Florida show he will face off against peers in the 13-15 age group.

Junior obedience trials are broken down into three categories: ages 9 to 12, 13-15 and 16-18. Kane is currently 12 years old, and would fall in the youngest age bracket, but he will be turning 13 just prior to the trials, meaning he’ll face stiffer competition.

In Orlando, Kane will be performing in five categories: heel on leash, sit for exam, figure eight, long sit and recall. To master all of these, Kane’s been putting in his fair share of time training with Karen McLeod and Jan Thingelstad, volunteer leaders for the Lake County 4-H Dog Project.

I’ve been putting in long practices,” he said.

“Kane is one of our more experienced 4-H members,” McLeod said. ”The 4-H program has grown and shown a tremendous amount of dedication and talent. It’s exciting to send Kane as a representative to show what we’re made of in Montana.”

McLeod added Kane is the first contestant from Lake County to qualify for junior obedience trials, meaning the Lake County 4-H Dog Program is off to a promising start. “He’s been working so hard at home and practicing,” Trina said. “He’s been improving steadily as the competition gets closer.”

Trina says she’s extremely proud of Kane’s accomplishments in dog showing, but is even more proud of how he has managed his time effectively to also get straight As at school.

“I’m proud of him,” Trina said. “He’s really willing to work for it.”

Trainer Jan Thingelstad said it hasn’t been a walk in the park getting Kane ready for the ultimate show.

“It’s been a learning process for all of us,” she said.

Both McLeod and Thingelstad, along with Trina, will be joining Kane and Hazel on the journey to Orlando, and they’ve been holding fundraisers to help cover $3,000 worth of expenses for the trip.

“I think this will be a great opportunity for Kane to meet kids all over the United States that do this,” McLeod said.

“I’m a bit nervous,” Trina said. “It’s a big deal.”

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