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home : blogs_old : quad-city creature blog September 14, 2014

Quad-City Creatures
By Heidi Dahms Foster, Prescott Valley, Arizona
A local blog all about pets and pet activities in the quad-city area.PV, Prescott and beyond.
Friday, February 5, 2010

Two old dogs, and the dog show of the year

Heidi Dahms Foster

Top: Imij at 13, turning on the power of those brown eyes (Photo by Heidi Dahms Foster). Bottom, "Stump," at 10 the oldest dog ever to win Westminster. (Photo courtesy Mary Bloom/WKC).

I can't believe time passes so quickly. In 1996, I brought home a lovely black tri color Australian Shepherd. He's striking, with a coat black as coal and a big white collar and chest.

From the time he was a puppy, Imij has been one of the easiest dogs I've ever had - always good tempered, always healthy, and always devoted. He was fun to show, and gave us a thrill in 2004 when he placed in the Veterans Class and was chosen a Premier Champion in the Altered classes at the Australian Shepherd Nationals. He's able to induce guilt and extra treats with the most melting brown-eyed gaze imaginable. Just in case you think he's perfect, he once lifted his leg in the living room and christened my brand new Nikon camera! And...he's an inveterate counter surfer - if it's edible, he'll find it.

Now 13, the old man sleeps most of the time. If he sees a tennis ball or the neighbor's dogs, he can still work up to a trot, but that's about the extent of the activity. I'm enjoying every minute I have left with him, because there is just something extra special about old dogs.

Speaking of old dogs, it's time again for the icon of American dog shows - the 134th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show will air on Feb. 15-16. Last year's Best in Show winner, a Sussex Spaniel named "Stump," was 10 years old. He was the oldest dog ever to win Westminster. You can check out the video of his winning moment on the Westminster website at www.westminsterkennelclub.org/.

Stump has a real comeback story. After winning the Sporting Group at Westminster in 2004, he contracted a mysterious illness and nearly died. He spent 19 days in a pet hospital. After that, he lived the life of ease with his handler, Scott Sommer. But, before "really" retiring him, Sommer thought Stump should have one more chance at Westminster, and the rest, as they say, is truly history.

Westminster is a little different than most American Kennel Club shows. In most, the winners of the championship points, one male and one female per breed, for that show are chosen through a process of elimination. At Westminster, every dog entered is already a champion, and competes only for Best of Breed.

Entries are a competition in itself - only 2,500 dogs are allowed in the show. Once entries close, the club officials draw the lucky 2,500. I found out through a little research that some owners enter more than once to increase their chances of making it in. The club doesn't refund the duplicate entries, it donates the money to charity.

Westminster is also a "benched" show, in which dogs have to be in the building by 11:30 a.m. and may not leave until 8 p.m. that night. The only times they are away from their benching area is for showing, grooming or potty breaks, which allows the public to see the "stars" up close and personal. It takes a seasoned show dog to deal with this kind of madness.

This year, Australian Shepherds have the most entries with 44, followed by Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers. California and New York have the most entries with 251 and 224. A number of dogs from foreign countries are also entered.

If you have a favorite breed, the Westminster website now has video of all the breed judging, just in case you don't see your favorite on TV during the group competition.

So, on Feb. 15 and 16, cuddle up with your old, or young, dog and enjoy the show.

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