|Photo Credit: Diane Lewis
I wanted to write this column to let everyone know you can show your own dog and have a great time doing it. Go out there and give it a try! Here is our story. My world started crashing in when my only sister passed away in 2009, followed soon after by the loss of my aunt and my first Terv. Though my family historically had many canine family members, including an Afghan Hound from Sunny Shay's Ch. Shirkhan of Grandeur (Westminster BIS winner in 1957), we had never entered the show ring.
Then I met my Terv boy Rio. He joined our family in 2010, and it was love at first sight. I had been to dog shows as a spectator, and I started thinking that getting out, learning new things, and meeting new people might be just what I needed at this difficult time. Rio has a very outgoing personality, with a silly side that is quite endearing. All I needed was the courage to go out there and show him. Rio certainly was willing and able.
I am fortunate to live near a very reputable dog-training facility, and I signed us up for beginning handling classes. We started training and making friends. For my homework, I read and still re-read every show-handling book I could find (my favorite is Peter Green's book). I watched the online videos of the Belgians at Westminster over and over again. I bought Terv national-specialty DVDs and studied them to learn what I thought looked best. I practiced each day to apply what I learned at handling class. Things unknown to us became familiar with training, daily practice, and studying the pros. We worked to learn the finer points of staking, gaiting, and general ring procedure. After a few months I felt that Rio and I had progressed to the point where we could enter some shows. Several shows later, we were surprised to win our class over a current Grand Champion. It was motivating to receive compliments from spectators, competitors, and judges alike: "Nice topline!" "Great movement!" "What a handsome man!" "How good natured!" "Wonderful personality!" Many spectators wanted "a dog exactly like him." Others said, "We picked him — he should have won!"
I too thought Rio was a winner, and I grew more committed to the sport. After some constructive comments from a spectator at a show, I learned that my grooming efforts could use improvement. One of my most important purchases has been the grooming video from the American Belgian Tervuren Club store. I love to shop and quickly became one of the show vendors' best customers as I searched for the perfect brushes, collars and leads, shampoos and conditioners, carry bag, baiting treats (still looking), Terv pins, rain jackets, and so on. I began to relax and to really enjoy the dog show scene. Then my sister's Aussie we'd adopted passed away, followed by my dear Mom, then my sister's mixed breed. The sadness was overwhelming. Rio's charming antics, humor, joy, and never-ending love and attention inspired me, as did family and friends. My newly acquired dog-show friends were especially encouraging.
Weeks after Mom's passing, Rio won his first major. When the judge selected Rio, a loud cheer from friends and competitors resonated across the ring. I was stunned — moments before, I had given my fellow exhibitors a humble speech about how maybe we'd start winning when Rio's coat fills out, so please don't expect anything from us now. Weeks later, Rio went BW, a three-point major. We ended 2011 with another major and a two-point minor, totaling 11 points.
I'm thrilled to have three majors with my first show dog. I know this isn't always possible. Though we're still new to this and perhaps rushing things, I hope Rio finishes soon. Regardless, Rio will always be my Best in Show, and I wouldn't trade him for any other dog. Like many other Belgian owners, we've started adding titles at the other end of his name, with his first title, Rally Novice. I'm grateful to all who have welcomed us into this wonderful dog show community. Their support and encouragement helps keep me going during these sad times. I feel that we have a lot more training adventures in our future. With my newly acquired skills and my very best friend Rio, I know we are up to the task. Our "cheering section" wouldn't have it any other way!
Joan and Rio earned their final points in grand style over a cluster weekend winning WD the first two days and then on Sunday going Best of Breed over two specials to finish! Joan is beyond thrilled with her very first champion.
American Belgian Tervuren Club website: abtc.org
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