- Associated Press - Sunday, February 16, 2014

SOMERS, Conn. (AP) - After three years of training, a border collie from Somers competed in the first Masters Agility Championship at the famed Westminster Kennel Club’s 138th Annual All Breed Dog Show last weekend in New York City.

The four-year-old purebred border collie named Ffynch was guided through the course at the prestigious show by his owner, Suzann Milheron. And although Ffynch didn’t make it past the two qualifying rounds, Milheron said she had no regrets.

“It was an excellent experience for both of us,” she said.

The new agility contest was held at Pier 94 on 12th Avenue, while the rest of the Westminster dog show was held at the traditional site of Madison Square Garden, where the best in show was crowned.

In the first qualifying round, Ffynch finished second in his height class behind the dog that would eventually win in the mixed breeds category, Roo!, a husky mix from San Francisco.

As for the second round’s jumpers with weaves course, Milheron said Ffynch was eliminated after he knocked down a bar on the first jump.

The overall champion was a 7-year-old border collie named Kelso of Cape Elizabeth, Maine.

The Westminster agility championship showcased 225 dogs representing 63 different purebreds and about 16 mixed breeds.

Ffynch was randomly chosen from a pool of more than 1,200 dogs for the agility championship. Dogs whizzed through tunnels and ran over jumps and around poles before the crowd.

Milheron said Ffynch had already been competing at the masters level with the American Kennel Club when she decided to enter him into the lottery for the Westminster agility competition.

“I really didn’t expect to get in,” said Milheron, 51, who works at Pratt & Whitney in East Hartford as a document control specialist. “I did it on a lark.”

For the first time in Westminster’s history, mixed breeds were allowed in the show’s new agility championship, although not in the traditional All Breed Dog Show.

Milheron said she was notified in early January that Ffynch had been chosen, and they began preparing immediately.

“This is a huge, huge deal in the dog show world,” she said.

Some fans may see dog shows as beauty pageants for well-groomed and superbly behaved dogs. Agility competitions are something else completely.

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