MNRC and AKC welcomes special needs handler at hunt tests

The Master National Retriever Club in cooperation with the American Kennel Club is pleased to announce that special accommodations have been made to allow a disabled handler to enter the Master National event.
The AKC Performance Events Department has recognized Tommy Landers’ desire to qualify for and enter the Master National. “The AKC is aware of Tommy’s situation and believes the AKC should provide all reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities to enjoy the sport as long as it does not change the fundamental nature of the event,” stated Doug Ljungren, Vice President of Performance Events.
[slideshow]Tommy, a 30-year-old from Arkansas and has been handling dogs for about three years. Tommy has Down syndrome.  He began dog training with Dale and Denise Johnson, who have helped Tommy become the confident and enthusiastic handler familiar to the  HRC tests in the Louisiana and Arkansas region.
“Tommy comes to the line with the assurance and strut of John Wayne,” says Denise Johnson.  For years Tommy would just sit in the truck at tests, but when given some camouflaged clothes, a lanyard and whistle and the opportunity to handle a dog—he just blossomed into a confident and brave young man.
“Handling a dog at a hunt test has meant everything to Tommy. It has allowed him to cope with the outside world. It’s the greatest thing in the world,” says Tommy’s father Bennie Landers.  It has just brought him out of an egg shell and now he is outgoing, smiles all the time and can’t wait for his next test.”
Tommy was almost non-communicative before this experience happened, and now he will go up to a judge, shake their hand, and even “kiss” the women judges!  It’s the best therapy in the world says his dad.
Tommy’s parents, Ann and Bennie Landers, of Arkansas City said they are extremely grateful to the Master National Retriever Club and the AKC for making accommodations for Tommy.
He will need assistance at the line, and his eye sight is limited, but Tommy can call out the commands, blow the whistle and handle the dog with some coaching.  “His coach is just an extension of Tommy,” says Denise. We may provide help by tapping him on the shoulder, but Tommy gives the commands.
Tommy will most likely be coached at the Master National by either handler Allen Sandifer or handler Tommy Harp, both of whom have been coaching the young man. Tommy will run one of Sandifer’s or Harp’s dogs at the 2011 event.
The MNRC is excited about seeing Tommy in Maryland and hopes all handlers will welcome him into the group.
When you see the smile on his face, you are sure to understand the pleasure and excitement this young man has gained from this enriched therapy says his dad.

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