Monday Spotlight: Local teen, dog to compete internationally

Morgan Vance, 17, of Stephens City, and Shadow, her 3-year-old Shetland sheepdog, run through the agility course at Blue Ridge Dog Training Club at Body Renew Fitness & Family Sports Center in Winchester recently. Rich Cooley/Daily

WINCHESTER – A Sherando High School junior and her 3-year-old Shetland sheepdog  recently made the 2017 American Kennel Club European Open Junior Agility USA Team.

Morgan Vance, 17, of Stephens City, will compete with her dog Shadow in Livange, Luxembourg, with a team of over 20 young adults from across the United States after placing in the national competition.

“This is a dream come true for me,” she said, noting that this is the largest team they have formed, showing how the sport is increasing in popularity among young adults.

She received a call in February informing her that she had made the team and will compete July 14-16. This will be Morgan and Shadow’s first international competition and the first time Shadow has been on a plane.

The handlers will fly into Amsterdam and head to Germany for a seminar on agility and then will travel to Luxembourg for the competition, she said.

Morgan Vance coaches Shadow on the agility course. Rich Cooley/Daily

Morgan and Shadow have competed in the Westminster Kennel Club Masters Agility Competition in New York City and the American Kennel Club National Agility Competition in Georgia. Morgan is also a junior member of the Blue Ridge Dog Training Club.

She said she began her journey as an agility trainer about three years ago after convincing her parents to let her get a dog. After a lot of research the family decided upon a Shetland sheepdog because they are easy to train and are known for their agility. Her hobby quickly became a sport.

“I guide him over obstacles and I have him follow a certain course,” she said when training.

Morgan began with basic obedience training when Shadow was a puppy. That turned into agility training as he grew older, she said. To prepare her and Shadow for competitions, she takes classes at the Blue Ridge Dog Training Club in Winchester and practices with Shadow every day at home. She has taught him over 130 tricks so far and is building his core and hind muscles through condition training. She has also taught Shadow to walk backward, which isn’t an easy task for a dog.

She said it can take anywhere from five minutes to a year to teach a new trick, depending on the trick’s complexity.

Shadow runs through the weave poles with Morgan Vance at his side. Rich Cooley/Daily

Her mother, Debbie Vance, said Morgan loves Shadow and he loves her back.

“He lives for her every move,” Debbie Vance added.

In her spare time, Morgan also volunteers at a local veterinary hospital and hopes to pursue a career as a veterinarian, but still wishes to continue in agility training and competition.

The Blue Ridge Dog Training Club will provide demonstrations of agility, obedience, tricks and other dog performance skills during Apple Blossom Weekend in the Park from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 7 at Jim Barnett Park in Winchester. Morgan and Shadow will be there all day for demonstrations.

She is fundraising for her international trip through a GoFundMe page, https://www.gofundme.com/shadoweoj, and her Etsy shop, www.etsy.com/shop/TheAgilityHerd, by making custom pet toys.

Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or ktoy@nvdaily.com

Morgan Vance runs with Shadow as he goes over the A frame on the agility course. Rich Cooley/Daily