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.

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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.


This entry was posted in MNRC Board News & Updates, Newsletters, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to MNRC and AKC welcomes special needs handler at hunt tests

  1. Tommy, I welcome you to Master Nationals and take pride in being part of an event that accommodates special needs handlers who have been willing to take the time to learn this sport and whose driving force is the same as mine –passion and love for our dogs and for this sport. Can’t wait to meet you at MN!

    Patti Simmons

  2. jim mccurry says:

    I think I saw Tommy pass a Finished Test in Fairfield, Texas this spring. When his dog completed the final test all the handlers and gallery hooped and hollered for him. He kissed the judge (Janet K. and made her cry). Everyone else was either tearing up, or, had a big lump in their throat. Truly a remarkable young man. When you watch him handle himself and his dog, I thought to myself, “all your problems are pretty small”. I thought of passing on the MN this year because of the distance. But, with the thought of Tommy being there, it will be worth it just to see him compete and to cheer him on. This guy will bring the house down! We need more encouragement to welcome those with special needs in our sport. It will definitely keep us humble. Thank you AKC and to the MNRC. Jim McCurry – Kearney, Ne.

  3. Tim Wright - Boston, MA says:

    This is why I love the sport. All too often we see the wrong answer in everyday life so when there is so glaring an example of the collective right decision we have to stand and applaud. Congratulations to Tommy, the AKC and MNRC for making dreams come true.

  4. Mark Edwards says:

    Bless you AKC, MNRC, Allen and Tommy for helping this young man continue his dream, without limitations!

    Mark Edwards

  5. Mike & Sandy Berube says:

    Pre-emptive congratulations are in order for this young man, and all involved that are making it happen. Our dogs can help make all things in life have a better outlook. Tommy…, my wife and I are looking forward to meeting you and watch you handle a dog at the Master National. Good form in handling that shotgun and duck call!!
    Mike & Sandy Berube

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