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J.C. Thompson - A Memorial to a Pioneer of Agility

In remembrance of J.C. Thompson, a major figure in the agility world.


With deep sorrow, we announce the passing of J.C. Thompson on his 93rd birthday.

J.C. was a well-known figure among agility enthusiasts, lauded for his competition wins and loved for his generous spirit. J.C. had just retired from his position at IBM and at the age of 65, competed in his first agility competition with his Border Collie Robby at a regional event hosted by Canine Combustion in October 1989. He placed 2nd and won the 30" height division of the Grand Prix of Dog Agility® Championships in 1990. In his later years, J.C. often reminisced about the early days, pointing out that everyone wore bibs with numbers for the event, and courses have become faster as the sport progressed over the years.

He, with his wife Hazel, traveled around the country, entering almost every agility event possible. He also served on the USDAA/Pedigree world teams at the FCI World Dog Show from 1991 through 1996, competing in Germany, Spain, Argentina, Switzerland, Belgium and Austria. His handling finesse was positively recognized by his European counterparts, and during the 1991 event in Germany, he received two rounds of enthusiastic applause for his run, the first for his handling finesse and the second when his age was announced. The following year in Spain, J.C. drew a standing ovation for his unprecedented handling strategy and style.

J.C. also served on the Pedigree/USDAA Exhibition Team from 1991 to 1996 in places as diverse as Gladstone, New Jersey (home of the U.S. Equestrian Team), Mexico City, and the sport's major television debut in Baltimore on the CBS network. He also participated in more than 20 exhibitions at major U.S. equestrian events, including the Pan American Games and the Arabian International Horse Show. Joining him and his wife Hazel on those team were a number of competitors who are still active today-Linda Mecklenburg, Susan Garrett, Julie Daniels, Stuart Mah, Elizabeth Blanchard, Alaina Axford-Moore, to name a few.

J.C. and Robby always drew appreciative crowds during their runs to watch both his handling acumen and his application of herding style to the agility ring. He and his wife Hazel, with her dog Rick Rack, were the first to use herding commands almost exclusively to do distance handling. Exhibitors were known to gather quickly at ring side when it was time for them to run so they wouldn't miss a second of watching their handling skills.

J.C. was named USDAA's Handler of the Year in 1990 and 1991, to recognize his contribution to the sport as a role model in performance and outstanding sportsmanship. In 1997, he was inducted into the USDAA Hall of Fame as a Pioneer of Dog Agility.

J.C. was the epitome of sportsmanship, always giving back to the sport he loved so much. He and wife Hazel were often the first to arrive at a trial and the last to leave, eagerly volunteering anywhere their help was needed. J.C. frequently invited guests, as well as welcomed the uninvited, to his 90-acre family farm in Haw River, North Carolina to test their dogs' herding temperament and skills on sheep. USDAA President Ken Tatsch has said of J.C. and Hazel, "Despite all the success, you will never find a pair of people so humble and so full of southern hospitality and humor. They are an absolute pleasure to know."

J.C. is survived by his wife of 67 years, Hazel, who is with family members and residing at the Alamance House near Raleigh, NC.

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