The Story of
Our Jack Russell Terrier Trial
Just when trial things were beginning to heat up, way back on April Fool’s Day 2000, as 700 prize lists lay ready for mailing for that year’s Memorial Day Bash, who should contact Susan Parsons but Cindy Robinson of Jupiter Entertainment of Knoxville, TN. with the impossible statement, "we’d like to film your trial for a new series running on Arts and Entertainment this fall". After determining that this was not a joke and that they were, indeed, coming to our trial, we jumped from the frying pan into the fire. Their timing in contacting us turned out to be fortuitous, as it allowed Shirley time to slap a neon sticker on each prize list proclaiming that race day would now be a filmed event. Emails with Cindy at Jupiter began as the groundwork was being laid and information was collected about the trial, the breed, judges, hunting, etc.
Around the second week of April, Cindy bowed out as she was assigned another event to cover and Shirley met Zak Weisfeld, the producer of our documentary, via email. He and Shirley would correspond at least weekly if not more often and it would not be until May that they would actually would meet face to face. Because an employee in their office in Knoxville owned a JR puppy, the Jupiter group was aware of the GTG and racing aspects of trialing and had already nixed GTG as an entertaining commodity to present to the general public on TV Racing would be the focus of the documentary but they wanted to zoom in on one race and do extensive interviews and film coverage of only one race and its contestants. Normally, any decisions concerning the trial are made by "The Committee": Shirley, Susan Parsons, Charlene Schlueter, Marcia Gay and Bonita Knickmeyer.
This time, however, the decision would lay with our trial Racing Steward, Charlene Schlueter of Sullivan, MO. Charlene, without hesitation, tagged the Adult -Dog – Over race as the most exciting and competitive. She and Shirley came up with a list of competitors they thought would be attending the trial who would run dogs in this race. Shirley then contacted each person by phone to see if they were agreeable to being interviewed and could she give out their phone numbers to Zak in Tennessee. When Zak requested general information on the JRs other than just those with Over Dogs, Shirley consulted with the Committee again, made more phone calls, and emailed Zak. Our base of information was growing; it needed to when Zak informed me that the documentary was going to run an hour on television and it was just about us!
The interview schedule went something like this: In Chicago, a film crew interviewed Steve Geroux and Jennifer Gilligan and their dog, Prestige Farms Oliver. In St. Louis the film crew arrived on Tuesday prior to the trial. On Wednesday, Jerry Waelterman was interviewed at his home. His dog, Dutch Creek Rick O’Shea, would be a major competitor in the Dog Over race. Wednesday afternoon, Brock Fitzgerald of Nestle Purina was interviewed at Purina Farms. Wednesday night, Zak and Paul, the cameraman, came to dinner at Shirley’s house (they finally meet!) and also met the Knickmeyers. Thursday, Bonita was interviewed at her house and went hunting with Zak and Paul. Bonita said that Zak and Paul asked her terrier to go in and out of the tunnel entrance over and over to get it just right for the film…but she had one confused hunting dog on her hands!
Thursday afternoon found Zak and Paul at Charlene’s house. Thursday night our conformation judge, Geoff Burnhill, arrived and stayed at Charlene’s. He would be interviewed at the trial. Rick and Joy Helms of Jefferson City were scheduled to be interviewed at their home but due to lack of time, were interviewed Friday at Purina Farms. The rest of the interviews would conclude at the trial site. On Friday, set-up day, the set up crew realized how serious Zak was when he said "we want to see everything that happens so we’ll be in your face a lot". Susan Parsons was interviewed on Friday and so was Shirley. Saturday morning, the first day of the trial, dawned dark and ugly, with rain coming in sheets. By 9 AM the rain had stopped and we had two camera crews following us around instead of one. Shirley wore a wire as the trial office opened at 7:30 a.m. and the semi-controlled chaos that is a trial began. After determining that Shirley would never stay in one place during the trial, the wire came off.
Both camera crews worked non-stop all day, interviewing most of the participants and filming all the events at the trial, including Lee Rebalko’s Doggie Fun Zone. By now the film crews were comfortable with the Jack Russell thing and were tossing around words like "Go To Ground", "Super G" and who had an "Over" or "Under" dog. Saturday night is traditionally a buffet dinner at Purina with our judge answering questions after dinner and this also was attended by a very tired Zak and Paul. Sunday, Race Day, was what the film crew came for and they were busily coordinating their cameras and more and more interviews and focusing on the group that would be running in "their" race, Dogs – Over. A very small camera was hanging over the back of the hay bales at the finish to capture the dogs as they came through. Another camera inside the number three box of the starting box captured the race from the dog’s point of view.
How were we to
know when we ordered our beautiful new starting box from Ron Morris the
previous year that it would be on national television ? (It truly is the
Cadillac of starting boxes). Racing heats progressed under the experienced
guidance of Charlene, Racing Judge Art Womack, Announcer Paul Kimmerly,
Starter Kandi Henson, Box Assignment Steward Vannah Teschner, Pre-Entry
Secretary Bonita Knickmeyer, Lure Operator Jerry Waelterman, Finish
Secretary Joy Helms and Start Secretary Marcia Gay. Over 90 dogs raced in
the flats. When the dust settled on the Dogs – Over race the camera crew
had more drama than they could ever have imagined from a little Jack
Russell trial in Gray Summit, MO.