October 2007

Meet Janet White

Author: Teresa Fitzgibbons

After purchasing a Jack Russell terrier in 1990, Janet White did what thousands of new dog owners do each year: she enrolled in an obedience class. Janet, however, came out of the class with a lot more than a dog who would heel on command. For Janet, it was the first step on the road to becoming a recognized expert in the competitive world of dog shows as a handler, judge, and breeder of Australian Shepherds.

She would not, however, make a name for herself with the Jack Russell terriers. In the early 90s, they were not yet a recognized breed by the American Kennel Club (A.K.C.) and, therefore, were ineligible for show. The Australian Shepherd Club of America (A.S.C.A.) did allow registered dogs of other breeds to compete in their shows, and Janet instantly fell in love with the versatile Aussies. She got her first one, Spice, in 1995, and a year later, Spice won her first title.

Since then, Spice has won over 40 titles, including three for conformation—the aspect of a dog show that measures how well dogs adhere to breed standards. She has also earned titles in obedience which judges how well dogs follow commands and routines; agility – the “obstacle course” in some shows; and in herding, the traditional use of Australian Shepherds.

While at a dog show in Fort Worth, Spice was discovered by a “dog modeling agent” which led to appearances in commercials for Radio Shack and a leather furniture store. Spice has also modeled for Dillards’ ads, Pet Mate, and a doggie clothing line. Her picture is currently on the cover of dog crates sold at PetSmart.

In 2001, Janet and Spice competed at the Westminster Dog Show, the crème de la crème of the dog show circuit. “Only champions get invited and then you have to have an agent to get your entry in. That’s how competitive it is,” explained Janet. Though Spice showed well, she won no awards. Janet is currently preparing another of her dogs, Gander, for the Westminster Dog Show. “He’s my up-and-coming show dog.”

In just 11 years, Janet and her dogs have won several hundred major titles and awards, including Best of Breed, Best of Winners, Best Opposite Sex, Winners’ Dog, and Best in Show, competing against winners of herding breeds at prestigious dog shows across the country. In addition, her dogs have placed first in National Specialty Shows where all of the competing dogs have already earned championships—a difficult process in which points are earned by beating a specific number of other dogs and earning other major titles.

“Goose (another of her dogs) finished her championship in just one weekend,” said Janet. “That’s almost unheard of. She also earned a herding title in the same weekend.”

Janet became an all-level A.S.C.A. Obedience Judge in 2001 and a Conformation Judge in 2004. In order to qualify as a judge, she had to breed at least three champion dogs and handle two more as well as participate in and organize a number of dog shows and act as a ring steward. She is currently the chairperson of the A.S.C.A. Obedience Committee, which makes rules for competitions, and sits on the A.S.C.A. Conformation Committee.

In 2006, she became a Senior Breeder, the highest level of judge and the only ones that are allowed to judge National Specialty competitions. She is one of only 250 Senior Breeders in the United States. Janet is a sought after judge, working shows from coast to coast and as far away as Germany and Belgium. The puppies she breeds are equally sought after, finding homes across the country and as far away as Canada, Switzerland, and Germany.

She also designs web pages for breeders and takes and sells photographs of dog shows. Janet either competes or judges at shows all over the country at least twice a month. “Sometimes it’s crazy,” she said. “This summer I was gone for six weekends in a row!”

Janet relocated to the Lowcountry from Texas in 2003 with her husband Richard and two sons, Devin, 14, and Colin, 12. She supports her “dog habit” with her other passion—teaching middle school English at Hilton Head Prep.

“I know some people must think I’m crazy,” she laughed. “It’s surprising how big some of these shows are and how many people love it as much as I do.”

Visit Janet on the web at www.afterallaussies.com.

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