Although the defending champion, Torment, will not be present this year, there are several former champions who will still run in the 8” field. Every champion (all papillons) from the past five years is entered: Sparkle (2011) and Carly (2012) with their handler Andrea Samuels, Masher (2013), and Gigi with Lisa Evans (2014, and 2015 AKC Agility Invitational champion).
Another 8” dog to watch is the papillon Wren, handled by Betsey Lynch. Wren, barely four years old, is already a two-time AKC NAC finalist (taking second place last year), and USDAA Performance Grand Prix Champion (2015) and Performance Challenge Biathlon champion (2014). Wren got attention on the national scene earlier this year by not only winning the 8” division at the Westminster Masters Agility Championship, but by posting the fastest time of all heights in the finals. Wren finished out the 2015 year as the fastest 8” dog according to the Bad Dog Agility Power 60. Whimsy, a papillon handled by Robin Kletke, is another contender to look out for. Whimsy has been a multiple-time finalist, and Robin won the NAC crown with his 20” border collie, Mynx, in 2014. Whimsy brings to the table not only speed, but incredible consistency.
Although the last five years have been won by papillons, there is still a diversity of breeds in the 8” division. The last non-papillon to win was the toy fox terrier Blink, handled by Johanna Ammentorp. Blink is now retired, but husband-and-wife team Mike Fitch and Karena Kosco’s toy fox terrier, Bing, could be a non-papillon contender for the crown. Bing was a 2015 NAC finalist and the 2015 USDAA Performance Speed Jumping champion. Interestingly, Bing’s handlers Mike and Karena both walk the course together and alternate handling throughout the competition (with AKC approval)–a tradition that started with their first agility dog, an Italian greyhound. Pembroke Welsh corgis are heavily represented in the 8” division, with some strong contenders including two-time NAC finalist Gunner and Leslie Rudy, and the lone corgi in the Power60 last year, True and Maureen Flaherty. Dogs to watch in other breeds include bichon frise Niki and John Yamasaki (2015 NAC finalist), all-American Logan and Kim Barton, Chihuahua Squish and Howard Carr, and cairn terrier Mack with Andrea Faucette.