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An inseparable pair: Collie ranked top five in nation for agility trials

Yoshi, a collie born in Kingston, is one of the top agility collies in the nation. - Brad Camp/For the Herald
Yoshi, a collie born in Kingston, is one of the top agility collies in the nation.
— image credit: Brad Camp/For the Herald

KINGSTON —The litter of pups born four years ago on a Kingston farm were not planned.

Jan Farrell-Darnall was done breeding dogs. To top things off one of the litter, one of the purebred rough collies, was not breathing.

Darnall was done breeding dogs, but this was different. She began breathing into the collie’s mouth.

It’s an act she doesn’t regret.

Yoshi Bear, or Yoshi for short, is now one of the top agility collies in the nation. Yoshi holds second place in overall points for American Kennel Club invitationals with 1,830 points — 179 behind the top collie. Last week she placed in the top 20 of the All Kennel Club Invitational in Long Beach, Calif.

“She’s one of the best things that has ever happened,” Darnall said.

Agility invitationals consist of a variety of obstacles that test canine agility and listening skills.

During an event, the slightest mistake can cost a dog and its trainer top placement. Reaching the the national level requires dedication.

Darnall began training Yoshi when she was 10 months old, taking two classes per week. At 15 months, the youngest a dog is allowed to compete in AKC, Yoshi began running trials.

Yoshi is trained at Blue Lightning Agility Sport Training in Gig Harbor, where Susan Perry provides lessons and training equipment. Before joining the training facility, Perry said Yoshi was well prepared for competition.

“They were doing pretty well before they began training,” Perry said. “They basically jumped into fine-tuning for the national level.”

It’s common for the rough collie breed to run courses too slow, which can lose . Yoshi tends to be more careful and her agility is difficult to surpass.

As an agility trainer, communication tends to be the biggest challenge.

“What it comes down to is what your body language is telling them,” Perry said.

Darnall and Yoshi are the first in the family to compete in agility competitions, said Farrell-Darnall’s husband Jerry Darnall. Before Yoshi, the Darnall’s bred show dogs and their son showed them at local fairs.

“They’re totally bonded,” Jerry Darnall said of Darnall and Yoshi. “I don’t know who would be more upset if they were split up, Jan or the dog.”

During an invitational, other dogs tend to tense up, not Yoshi. He said Yoshi is relaxed.

“She has a ball and is usually more relaxed,” He said of Yoshi. “Most dogs are wound up so tight, they aren’t having fun, but look at her, she has a great big smile on.”

Yoshi was named after the popular video game character of the same name, which Darnall’s son played growing up.

Along with accumulating points for the 2010 season, Yoshi earned three out of four medals for clean rounds ­— not disturbing any obstacles — and two master agility awards. One mistake cost the team a 13th place rank overall.

The top five agility dogs in each of the 167 AKC recognized breeds were invited to attend the Long Beach invitational.

The next AKC invitational is planned for Florida, but Darnall said she isn’t going. Besides the time commitment, she does’t want to force Yoshi to be on a plane for so long.

“I am going to slow down during tax season, but after that we will step it up,” Darnall said. “It’s addicting.”

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