Clark Osojnicki

Clark

Some might find it surprising to see a six foot four man in his 50s racing through an obstacle course, at turns darting, sprinting, and clapping at a four-legged animal.

But if you ask Clark Osojnicki, the firm’s Financial Analysis Manager, you get the impression there’s nothing else he’d rather be doing than competing with his dogs in agility competitions organized by the American Kennel Club.

“It’s a very social sport,” said Clark, who has been featured on Animal Planet and in USA Today. “There is a lot of strategy involved in agility. Every course is unique.”

Osojnicki (pronounced Oz·in·icky) grew up in Roseville, Minnesota. His grandparents had migrated to the area from Yugoslavia (Serbia and Croatia, to be precise). The youngest of four children, Clark’s suburban upbringing was stereotypical. Street after street of nearly identical houses. Little diversity. Endless summer hours spent in backyards with friends playing games of all kinds.

“It was an innocent but great place to grow up,” said Clark.

As a youngster, a lot of his interests revolved around athletics. He played unorganized sports with neighborhood children and faithfully tracked local pro and college sports teams in the newspaper. Living just a block away from the ice arena, he quickly became a loyal fan of the local high school hockey team, Alexander Ramsey, attending games all by himself by age eight. An obsession with bowling soon followed, and by high school he was bowling in two or three leagues a week.

Math came easily to all the Osojnicki children and Clark naturally became fascinated with sports statistics. It was his childhood dream to be employed by one of the local professional sports teams. Clark said that was still his goal entering college until Calculus Four “convinced” him it was time to switch focus to computer programming.

It was at the local bowling alley, in the arcade area, where he met Kris Norell, a young woman also from Roseville who attended Alexander Ramsey. The two became sweethearts, a relationship that continued after Clark graduated from nearby Totino Grace High School in 1981 and enrolled at the U of M where he studied computer science and accounting.

Clark and Kris were married in 1987, a year that turned out to be momentous in more ways than one. That year, shortly after he and Kris moved into the same Roseville home where Clark had grown up, he joined the firm then known as Gray Plant Mooty Mooty & Bennett. His first role was accounts payable clerk, but over the next five years, he worked in various accounting roles—cash receipts clerk general ledger accountant, billing clerk—before he was made accounting manager in 1991.

For Clark, a person who loves crunching data and numbers, the work he found at Gray Plant Mooty was stimulating and the environment ideal. “There is a culture here that is, I think, the anti-stereotype of what you’re taught to expect from a law firm,” said Clark.

He said the caricature of the bull-in a-china-shop attorney just doesn’t fit with the people he has met over the years.

“The vast majority of the attorneys I’ve worked with are respectful and easy to work with,” he said. Then he smiles: “Oh, they can be tough too.”

In 2003, with his career on a steady path, Clark decided to take a chance on his other passion: his love of dogs. He and Kris, who had bought their first dog when they were married and had begun competing them in agility competitions in the 90s, decided to buy a stake of a dog training school in Lake Elmo called Animal Inn. For up to 40 weekends a year over the next 12 years, the couple could often be found competing their cherished dogs.

Sometimes competitions were in state and close to home. Other times, Clark and Kris would be drawn further from home to attend regional and national competitions: Des Moines, Iowa; Fargo, North Dakota; Madison, Wisconsin; and Orlando, Florida.

Among the dogs Clark competed in time obstacles courses was Roxy, a beautiful Bernese Mountain Dog who dazzled attendees at the AKC Agility Nationals in Orlando in 2007, taking third place in the 20 inches category when she was just two years old.

“She was that once in a lifetime dog,” Clark said of Roxy, who would go on to place at nationals in two of the following three years before dying of cancer. (Readers can watch Roxy and Clark in this Youtube clip.)

In 2015, Clark and Kris sold their share of the dog training school but the couple continues to compete their animals. It is part of their lives now, Clark said, a recreational activity he and Kris can enjoy together with friends.

“It is definitely social as much as it is competitive; that is what hooked us and kept us coming back,” said Clark. “It tends to be the same groups of people at every show. Naturally we have a lot in common with most of them, and there is a lot of banter and discussions in addition to the competition itself.”

In 1998 Clark stepped into the role of Financial Systems Analyst and he continues to crunch numbers today as Financial Analyst Manager, a role he stepped into in 2010. He is now in charge of systems more than people, which he says is his natural fit. Overall, he sounds quite comfortable in his role at the company at which he has worked for nearly 30 years.

“I’ve always understood that the grass is not always greener elsewhere,” said Clark. “I love the analytical part of my job, I enjoy the people I work with and Gray Plant has always treated me well.”