Poise & patient pooches wins final fair event
Rogers, 11-year-old daughter of this paper’s editor-in-chief Don Rogers, had tried her luck before – twice.But “Drifter,” another one of the Roger family’s infamous pack of rescued pooches, “didn’t pay attention to me,” Rogers said, holding her Grand Champion ribbon, which she won for best showmanship in her age category.In all, Rogers and Spicy, a corgis-labrador-husky-and-maybe-chow mix, beat out 11 other participants for first place at the showmanship competition for the Eagle County Fair 4-H Dog Show – an oddly quiet event where poop and poised dog owners, patience and playful pooches meet and compete for the judge’s favor.It’s the fair’s final event, and even those who go home without a ribbon are winners assured kennel judge Terena Thomas from Aurora.”Just because you didn’t win a ribbon, doesn’t mean that you should get rid of your dog,” the petite Thomas, dressed in a green stylish outift and heels, tells the group of children (and canines), ranging in age from 8 to 18 (or one to however old for the dogs).”Tomorrow is going to be an entirely different day, and chances are you would get a better score. I commend you all for putting in the time and effort, this is one of the best counties I have judged, just because of the number of participants and the quality of showmanship. Congratulations.”The gaggle of kids and dogs bravely await the awards after more than 20 minutes of posing in the ring, smiling and keeping their charges on all fours, while the judge takes notice, takes notes and asks questions.Each gets a round of applause from a stand full of people who have assembled in the Livestock Barn this Sunday to take in the dog show competition.The barn suddenly seems to have decorum, despite the remaining strong odor of the goats, sheep and steer that populated it until Saturday, suddenly seems to have decorum.The participants are dressed in their Sunday finest, and the dogs smell and look like they have just re-emerged from a long bubble bath.During the showmanship competition, the final five participants and their pooches are tested in their patience and ability to stand still with a smile and a wagging tail.Morgan Wyrick, 11-year-old daughter of assistant managing editor Randy Wyrick, is bribing her impressive one-year-old Bernese Mountain Dog, “Slugger,” into shape with little treats she keeps in a small fanny pack.Maggie Emmer, a student at Eagle Valley Elementary School who chose to wear an light-purple organza dress for the occasion, has put on a smile so brilliant and wide it didn’t go unnoticed.”You had a great smile out there,” Thomas tells Emmer after the competition.Emmer, who takes third in the showmanship competition, admits that she was nervous in the ring – a fact her smile successfully concealed.Her 2-year-old black labrador “Gracey” has a smile too, matched by two honey-colored eyes. Emmer, who has been attending obedience class for the past two years, is satisfied with her rank.Ashley Atkinson, an 11-year-old Eagle Valley Middle School student, is seated on a turn-over bucket for a break after her showmanship run. Three-year-old “Kenai” – named after “a town, river and peninsula in Alaska, where we went” – is gladly lying down nearby in all her golden retriever glory.”I did pretty well,” Atkinson says in review. “I was prepared for all her questions, and Kenai didn’t bust out of the ring.”Despite a brief burst of friendliness – Kenai trying to visit family outside the ring – Atkinson and her four-legged partner end up with the Reserve Champion title in showmanship.”We gave it our best,” Atkinson says, giving Kenai a loving pat on the head.Dog show competitors are required to know their dog’s different body parts, breeding history and know how to handle them in a variety of stances and gaits. In the obedience competition, participants walk their dogs through several formations from a figure-eight, to sit, to stand and an abrupt turn.Ten-year-old Nicholas Stevenson of Edwards seems to have lost his smile while going through the obedience course. But his pooch, 2-year-old “Lucy” a docile black labrador is making the judge smile.Nevertheless, graceful conduct and politeness is important, says Mark Ruark, a local dog expert and trainer.”Remember: Smile and “yes, ma’ am,'” the 4-H dog handling leader of the Waggin’ Tails club instructs another participant heading into the ring.”They have to dress up and be polite; that’s important,” he says, while picking up an errand piece of dog poop with a baggy, his eyes never leaving the ongoings in the ring.”The judge really looks at how well the kids handle the dog, not how the dog handles the kid.”Ruark says a dog can be a character-builder in more than one way for a child growing up.”There is the responsibility of caring for someone, and just having someone to talk to,” he says, watching another participant make a turn without switching the leash – an automatic deduction.”It sounds wrong, but it is good for a kid to have someone to boss around. Somebody they can dominate.”Geraldine Haldner covers Vail, Minturn and Red Cliff. She can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 602, or at firstname.lastname@example.org
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