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Last updated: Mon. Nov. 05, 2012 - 04:05 pm EDT


Top dogs on display

Coliseum event featured 3 of country’s best

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The year’s Old Fort Cluster Dog Show was visited by three of the top dogs in the country, according to Ann Stucky, the marketing director for the event.

“Our photographer said the only place he’d seen a better Best in Show lineup was at the Westminster Dog Show,” she said.

If you are a devotee of celebrity dogs, this may have been the canine equivalent of a concert featuring Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty.

One of the celebrity dogs, an English springer spaniel, has a rock star name befitting his rank and station: Champagne Supernova aka Champion Wyndmore Champagne Supernova.

According to his handler, Robin Novak, there are a number of reasons why this dog has earned the name Champagne Supernova and not something more reserved like Malt Beverage Bottle Rocket.

Novak said Champagne Supernova comes “really close to the breed standard,” exhibits “a lot of showmanship” in the ring, and has “a lot of heart that makes him want to do this.”

“He never lets me down in the ring,” she said. “He always gives me 100 percent.”

Novak said Champagne Supernova has 68 Best in Shows.

The Old Fort Cluster Dog Show, which concluded Sunday after a five-day stand at Memorial Coliseum, was a good place to find the distinguished and the scrappy, the rare and the familiar.

It was not unusual during the Old Fort Cluster Dog Show to see a couple pushing what looked like a baby carriage but what turned out, upon closer examination, to be two small dogs in a split-level cage on wheels.

Stucky said the American Kennel Club officially recognizes 165 breeds and a few of the rarer ones were in evidence at the Coliseum, including the Peruvian Inca Orchid.

“They’re purple dogs!” she said.

Anywhere from 900 to almost 1,600 dogs competed each day, Stucky said, with a Best in Show named daily in each of seven categories: sporting, hound, working, terrier, toy, nonsporting and herding.

It is the goal of the dog owner, the dog handler and maybe even the dog to earn 15 points through major wins, which is how the dog attains champion status.

A dog that has won this status is referred to as “finished,” Stucky said, although many dogs continue to compete toward Grand Champion status and in the Veterans class.

A dog named Joe owned by Canaan resident Janet Ball won Champion status on Sunday at Memorial Coliseum.

Joe is a bouvier des Flandres, a name that sounds more high-falutin’ than Joe seems to be.

The bouvier des Flandres is a cattle dog, Ball said, and her dogs work on the farm when they’re not competing.

“My dogs actually work,” she said. “That’s what they’re bred to do – herd. We have 500 acres.”

Ball said a bouvier des Flandres has “a very calm temperament” but is “fiercely territorial.”

“They guard everything,” she said.

If a stranger comes over to visit her, Joe will “let him in but she won’t let him out,” not without Ball’s say-so, that is.

Whatever the temperament of a bouvier des Flandres happens to be when he is in herding mode, the way that Joe leaned against the reporter’s legs was more reassuring than alarming.

Gentle temperament was one of the reasons Larry Schuster of West Hartford, Conn., started showing English springer spaniels.

That and their height, he said.

Schuster used to show westies, but a bad back made him start looking for a taller dog.

“They’re fun, loving, sweet dogs,” he said of springers as he groomed one.

The only sight more ubiquitous at Memorial Coliseum on Sunday than dogs being shown was dogs being groomed.

As a handler who shows many types of dogs, southern Illinois handler Andrea Carter is a student of many types of canine temperaments.

She said coon hounds can be stubborn, Chihuahuas can be goofy and saucy, and Tibetan spaniels can be “catlike.”

Carter said a Tibetan spaniel is liable to stop in the middle of a ring routine and stare at her in an aloof yet mildly disdainful way.

Carter showed only six dogs at the Old Fort Cluster Dog Show but she said professional handlers can show as many as 20 to 30 dogs per event.

She said watching that many dogs debark a vehicle can be like “watching clowns get out of a clown car.”

Novak said she has shown as many as 25 at a time, but this year she’s been totally focused on Champion Wyndmore Champagne Supernova.

Novak uses doggy treats to reward Champagne Supernova throughout a routine and she keeps them in what might strike some readers as an odd place: her mouth.

“It depends on if I have pockets or not,” she said. “I would rather that they not have to be in my mouth, but I have to get at them fast.”

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