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2008 Agility Camp

August 7-8

Sugar Bush Farm, Stephentown NY

Camp Instructor Biographies

Mary Jo Lavin

Mary Jo Lavin & True

Mary Jo Lavin, BA is a seasoned national competitor whose strengths as an instructor come from her success and the hurdles she has overcome. As the co-owner of Homestead Farm Agility, Mary Jo has 15 years of teaching agility to students with all breeds. Mary Jo carries a full toolbox of techniques, tips and strategies. Her skill lies in detecting the minute details of handling and helping handlers be more precise. Mary Jo is a master at developing potential into proficiency and getting results beyond her students’ expectations. Mary Jo’s strength is teaching others how to build and train strong foundation skills in their budding agility dogs. She has an analytical approach and a gift for breaking down complex concepts into understandable lessons. Her training is based on positive, motivational methods for both dogs and handlers.

ScampMary Jo started agility in 1989 with her rescue Tibetan Terrier ADCH Scamp CDX MX MXJ and remembers when agility trials had a total of 30 runs for the whole trial! Scamp and Mary Jo were one of New England’s top teams for ten years. Scamp’s USDAA accomplishments include: Steeplechase Champion, three-time Grand Prix finalist - placing 2nd, 5th and 6th, Top Ten List and multiple Team Tournament placements. Retired Portuguese Water Dog, Ozzie AAD OA OAJ, also rescued, taught her patience and how to motivate and show a low drive dog.  Mary Jo currently has 3 competition dogs. Border Collie, ADCH True GM JM RM MACH, an accurate, fast, and honest dog who has many local tournament wins and has competed at the USDAA Nationals for the last four years. True is has also made the Top Ten List and has either Bronze or Silver distinctions in all the USDAA classes with limited showing.  Aussie, Nell MAD AX AXJ, a.k.a. the “party girl”, is happy to enjoy agility as long as it is fun. Nell is an anchor dog in agility and in life – steady and strong.  She likes to work around the home doing chores and caring for her family. Mary Jo’s newest agility prospect is Border Collie, Peg, who is currently in training and just starting competition,  but is already in the Masters/Excellent levels.

Mary Jo is married and a mother of two adolescent daughters; so like many agility instructors and competitors she is always balancing her business, and competitive interests with her home life. She has a BA from Wheaton College in English Literature. In a previous life, she was a reference librarian, managed a medical practice and was an editorial assistant for an Asian Studies journal and has studied Japanese language and culture. She is the agility contributor for The Australian Shepherd Journal.

Val Reiner

Eleven years ago Val was bitten by the agility bug while looking for something she and her Border Collie Piper could enjoy together.   Piper retired at 14 years of age having earned advanced titles in 3 different agility organizations.  During the past 11 years, Val has taught all levels of agility, attended many seminars and workshops, and competed with 2 other dogs.  She is also a judge for USDAA, CPE and TDAA.  Her current agility dog is Zoe, a 7 year old rescue American Eskimo Dog who is competing at the highest level in 3 different organizations.  Zoe recently earned her second championship title in CPE.

Having trained and competed with 3 very different dogs, Val is very aware that each dog and handler team comes with different abilities and strengths.  Her goal as an instructor is to bring out the best in each of these unique teams using positive training methods, so that they may enjoy agility to the fullest.  Many of her current and former students are now competing successfully throughout New England and beyond. 

Terri Cesarek

Terri Cesarek became addicted to agility after experiencing the confidence it gave her All-American Mandy, a rescue dog found wandering on a highway. Together they learned how much fun the sport of agility was.  Mandy took Terri on quite an amazing journey and she will be forever in Terri’s heart.  Along came Border Collie Chase who is even more addicted to agility than Terri. His speed and responsiveness have taught Terri the importance of being a consistent handler. Together Terri and Chase have worked hard to accomplish his USDAA ADCH, Tournament Master Platinum, Gamblers and Snooker Champion Silver.  He also has qualified for and competed at the USDAA Grand Prix of Dog Agility World Championships the last 4 years. Youngster Shine, a Border Collie, is following in Chase’s paw prints showing he loves playing agility.  He has had the benefit of all Terri learned with Chase. He recently started competing and already has his USDAA MAD, Jumpers Master, Relay Master, Gamblers Champion and Tournament Master Bronze.  He competed for the first time in the semi-final round at the USDAA Grand Prix of Dog Agility World Championships this past November.  Terri’s dogs are wonderful teachers helping her understand the importance of the relationship between dog and handler. It is a key element in her training, as she helps her students realize the joy of playing the game of agility with their canine companions. She has as much fun training her dogs as she does competing with them. Terri’s method of training is to create a dog that is eager to learn. Through the use of play and well timed rewards she coaches people on how to train their dogs in a positive manner. When working her own dogs she displays a good example of what true teamwork is.  Leaving the ring knowing both she and her dog had fun together is more important than qualifying.  For Terri the titles are just there for her to remember the journey she and her dogs took to earn them.


Ray Wheeler

Ray's Dogs

Ray Wheeler and Nancy ObaraRay Wheeler has been involved in the agility scene on many levels since being introduced to agility in 1992.  Ray is a competitor, as well as an instructor, mentor, organizer, and agility judge.  With a homebase in Springfield, MA and a “day job” with Mass. Mutual Life Insurance Co,. Ray is also President of ACE Agility Club in central MA, and an agility instructor for ACE in Palmer MA and for Paws’n’Effect training center in Hamden, CT.  Ray currently has three dogs: two Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers, Majel (ADCH, NATCH, MACH, CATCH ), and Imzadi (CATCH) and a young border collie, Natira (NA, OAJ, CL2).  Ray is recognized as a fun and fair Judge for three venues:  NADAC, CPE, and TDAA.  He is well known for his generosity in sharing his considerable experience in course design, course analysis, and course handling with competitors and numerous clubs he’s already presented training workshops with.  Ray believes in positive training methods and making agility fun for all dogs.. 


Trisha Stall

Trisha Stall is the owner of AgileDogs Agility Training.  She has been training, teaching, and competing in dog agility since 1995. 

trishaI began training my first dog in agility 12 years ago, since then I have become a top competitor in the sport and have altered my life to be involved with dog agility full time.  An Engineer for 13 years, I quit that career in 2000 to become a full time agility instructor.  I have three dogs, two of them mixed breeds, and am competing at the top levels of the sport with all of my dogs.  You may even have seen my dog Sandy and myself on television, as we have been on several invitational events.  I have competed with my dogs in the USDAA, NADAC, and CPE Nationals Championships; Sandy won the NADAC Championships in 2002 and CPE Nationals in 2003, and Crystal won the CPE Nationals in 2002.

 Crystal, my first dog, who passed away in 2006, was a Border Collie/Husky mix.  She got me started in Agility in 1995.  When we first started, as I was completely new to the sport, I made the mistake of not making every aspect of Crystal’s early training an absolutely fun experience.  As a result, Crystal was a slow, unmotivated dog for more than three years.  But eventually, through lots of retraining and perseverance from myself, Crystal regained her original enthusiasm for the game!  Crystal earned the NADAC Elite Veteran Regular, Gamblers and Jumpers titles; USDAA Performance Dog III title; CPE C-ATCH title; and UKC Level 1 title.  Plus, she took High in Trial as well as High Veteran in Trial at the 2002 CPE Agility Nationals, and finished third at the 2002 AMBOR Mixed Breed Nationals.

sandySandy, an “All-American” – probably Rat Terrier mixed with Whippet and Beagle, passed away in April 2008, at 13 years of age.  Sandy attained her ADCH (USDAA Agility Dog Champion); S-NATCH (NADAC Superior Agility Trial Champion); holds the 8th C-ATE (CPE Agility Team Extraordinaire); has been in USDAA’s Top Ten Jumpers and the Performance Top Ten in Standard, Snooker and Gamblers; is in the CPE Top 10 Lifetime Top Ten; won the CPE Nationals in 2003; won the NADAC Championships in 2002; finished second at the 2002 AMBOR Mixed Breed Nationals; and competed for several years and was a finalist in the 2000 Purina Incredible Dog Challenge.  A rescue, Sandy came to me with several insecurities.  I only started agility with her to help develop confidence; originally I had no intention of competing with her, but that changed when Sandy took to the sport and gained confidence, and was obviously having the time of her life. 

 Buddy, my 9 year old Border Collie, was also acquired from rescue.  Even though he was confined to a crate for the first 8 months of his life, with a little TLC from both the original rescuer and then from myself, he blossomed into a wonderful and typically high-drive BC.  So far in his agility career he has earned the USDAA Masters Jumpers and Advanced Agility Dog titles; CPE C-ATE title (I'm only the 3rd person to have a C-ATE on more than one dog); AKC OA and OAJ Titles; and NADAC Elite Regular, Gambles and Jumpers Titles.

Jart, the newest addition to my canine family, is a 6 year old All-American (perhaps a mini-aussie, perhaps a Border Collie/Papillion mix).  He spent the first year of his life in a “collector home” with 70 other dogs until he was rescued.  He’s scared of strangers, but loves other dogs and life in general, and took to agility the moment he was introduced to it.  He already has his USDAA PI Gamblers, Snooker and Jumpers titles, and is in levels 4 and 5 in CPE. He has gained tons of confidence and now attacks agility courses with abandon!