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Sidelines with Synness: Andersen's dog Stetson retires after numerous national agility titles

Sidelines with Synness: Andersen's dog Stetson retires after numerous national agility titles

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HELENA -- This week Sidelines revisits the career of a recently retired athlete of the four-legged variety, a papillon dog named “Stetson.” And although he tips the scales at just 10 pounds and measures the tape at only 12 inches, during his 14-year career this fiery furry canine competitor – and his owner/trainer/partner Leah Andersen – garnered numerous national agility championships.

“Agility is a dog sport in which a handler directs a dog through obstacles such as jumps, tunnels and elevated walkways, in a race for both time and accuracy,” canine agility fan Jane Smilie related. “Andersen’s first serious agility dog, Stetson, is now among the most-titled agility dogs in Montana.”

Papillon means butterfly in French, and these tiny dogs with huge butterfly-like ears are considered the premier athletes in their sport of agility. Stetson is exceptional even among his breed, and has many achievements under his collar in both American Kennel Club (AKC) and National American Dog Agility Council (NADAC) competitions.

Among his career highlights are that of an AKC two-time Master Agility Champion (MACH), 2012’s top 12-inch papillon, and a Gold-level Master Jumper. In NADAC competitions, Stetson is a five-time national titlist, a top-10 finisher in nine national championships and holds multiple speed records.

Andersen has been training dogs for various sports for about 30 years, the last 16 of those consisting of training and competing in agility.

“I got into agility because I love the fast action and the incredible bond you get with your dog while training so many different obstacles,” said Andersen, who owns and operates Pampered Pets, a pet boarding and day care facility, and the A Level Beyond Training Academy, which provides agility training, obedience and other dog sports in an indoor arena.

“I also love the fact that any breed dog can do it. I personally run papillons, border collies and German shepherds, but have coached … so many different breeds – Malteze, Cavaliers, pugs, rottweilers, Donovans and Australian shepherds.”

She noted that both her children “have run and competed” since they were about 3, and are now competing nationally.

Stetson has been inducted into the North American Trial Championships Hall of Fame, after acquiring their highest point levels 14 times. On top of that, he sired a litter of six amazing puppies with Fame, one of their highly competitive border collies, for their next generation of agility partners.

When asked what Stetson will do in his retirement, Andersen replied, “Whatever he chooses is fine with me, he’ll always have my heart!”

NOTE: For additional information regarding Andersen’s pet boarding and dog training facilities, phone 406-443-PETS.

Curt Synness can be reached at 406-594-2878 or curt52synness@gmail.com. He’s also on Twitter @curtsynness_IR

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