Prof and Pup Compete in National Dog Show

Jimmy recently competed in the Westminster Dog Show

Photo by Elizabeth Evans

Jimmy recently competed in the Westminster Dog Show, the nation's premier dog competition.

From rescue shelter to the Big Apple, Jimmy, a dog without impressive pedigree, was a recent contender at the nation’s most exclusive dog competition – the Westminster Dog Show.

But the transformation from scruffy pup to trained competitor didn’t happen overnight, and Jimmy had some help.

UT Dallas professor Dr. Adrienne L. McLean, who teaches film studies in the School of Arts and Humanities, found Jimmy eight years ago. The then 12-week-old terrier mix puppy was recovering from ringworm and was in poor health.

“The Richardson Humane Society had taken him in, given him vet treatment, and kept him in a foster home until most of the ringworm was gone,” said McLean, who adopted the dog based upon the Humane Society’s assessment that he was smart, energetic, but also a “snuggler in the evenings.”

The same hour Jimmy arrived at his new home, he started his training.

Jimmy competed at the Westminster Dog Show

Jimmy was featured on television on several shows, including Good Morning America. Watch his story on KTVT-TV, channel 11.

McLean became involved in agility training with her first dog Judy, who soon turns 12. Judy, a dachshund mix, was also a shelter rescue puppy, with issues requiring hip surgery. Afterward, the surgeon wanted McLean to encourage Judy to put weight on her leg.

“I had seen agility competitions on TV, and with the vet’s OK, I found a local class; Judy took to it very well and soon was running on all four legs. We continued to train and started to compete in 2004,” said McLean.

 When Judy was 3, McLean started working with Jimmy.

“Agility begins with teaching a dog to love learning and to love working, and you have to form a relationship with the dog that you both enjoy. You want a dog that is excited to go out to the backyard or to a class and do some training. And you want a dog that is excited to go into the ring to run,” said McLean.

Agility begins with teaching a dog to love learning and to love working, and you have to form a relationship with the dog that you both enjoy. You want a dog that is excited to go out to the backyard or to a class and do some training.

Dr. Adrienne McLean
professor in Arts and Humanities

After conquering the basics – sit, down, stay – next came trick training, and lots of running and playing.

“I do reward-based training, never coercive. Think of the difference between teaching a dog to heel by jerking his leash repeatedly versus holding a treat in your hand on a loose leash and rewarding the dog for following along by your side,” McLean said.

Soon, Jimmy received his Canine Good Citizenship certificate from the American Kennel Club (AKC) a few months after his adoption, and was the star of his puppy agility classes, too.

When Jimmy turned 18 months, the age at which he could enter his first agility trial, he was trained on all the obstacles and his relationship with his teacher had become strong. At his first competition, over a three-day weekend, he had qualifying scores in all but one event and tied for “High-in-Trial.”

Jimmy has racked up more than 100 agility titles, including championship titles from at least four agility organizations. He made the finals of several national events, and in 2012, was ranked the No. 3 mixed breed agility dog in the AKC. He won a “top dog” prize for placing fourth overall after four runs at the AKC Invitational Agility Championship in Orlando last December, where he competed against purebreds.

Jimmy competed in the Westminster's Dog Show

Photo by Elizabeth Evans

In 2012, Jimmy was ranked the No. 3 mixed breed agility dog in the American Kennel Club.

As he continued to succeed, a big stage opened for Jimmy. For the first time, the country’s most exclusive dog show – the Westminster Dog Show, famed for its pampered purebred competitors – allowed mixed breeds to enter its first-ever agility trial. McLean and Jimmy headed to Pier 94 in New York City, where the agility competition was to be held.

“I wanted to be involved in the Westminster event because it was the first time (for mixed breeds), and there wouldn’t be another first time,” said McLean.

The national media also took an interest to the Westminster’s “mutts.” Jimmy was featured on the ABC Evening News and Good Morning America while in New York, and on Broadway his fans recognized him from those television appearances.

When the time came to compete, Jimmy didn’t miss a step under the bright lights and cameras. Instead, McLean said she was the one who felt the pressure.

“Jimmy did absolutely perfectly on everything, as always. It is the human who makes the mistakes! I blanked for just a microsecond on our second run,” said McLean.

The small mistake caused a refusal, or a penalty. Jimmy received one qualifying score, and the mixed-breed “Best-in-Show” went instead to a husky mix named Roo.

Back home in Richardson, Jimmy isn’t taking any time off. He’s still competing at trials and continuing his role as a therapy dog with Heart of Texas Therapy Dogs.

McLean has recently adopted another mixed-breed rescue dog, now 19 months old. If all goes well, McLean hopes to compete at Westminster with her in the future.

Maybe the loveable “mutt” will take first – every dog has its day.

Film Studies Professor is Author of Several BooksDr. Adrienne McLean

Professor Adrienne L. McLean specializes in film history and theory, women and film, classical Hollywood cinema, television history, stars and star images and dance history.

Recently, her canine and film worlds have fruitfully collided in her anthology Cinematic Canines: Dogs and Their Work in the Fiction Film (Rutgers University Press), which is being published this month.

In 2011, she published Glamour in a Golden Age: Movie Stars of the 1930s, which analyzes movie stars of that era against the background of contemporary American cultural history.

In her 2008 book, Dying Swans and Madmen: Ballet, the Body, and Narrative Cinema, McLean explored the symbiosis of ballet and film.

McLean is also the author of Being Rita Hayworth: Labor, Identity, and Hollywood Stardom (2004), now in its second printing.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].

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