I'm always impressed by the transformation our dogs go thru. Here's Ramen, a few weeks before the show, prior to any grooming. He had been enjoying the snow and mud. :-)
Given the time of year and chance for snow and cold, we scheduled an appointment with a professional groomer. Shannon does an excellent job with our dogs and she has much better equipment for bathing and drying than we do. He looks handsome after his bath. :-)
I did a pre-show groom on Saturday, then fluffed him up before each event on Sunday and Monday. :-)
The Denver show is about an hour's drive from our house, and we were helping a friend with her dogs, who's ring times were earlier than ours... so it was a very early morning and late night both days.
This show takes place at the National Western Stock Show Complex and is pretty-well advertised so there are a lot of non-dog-show-people who attend. While exhausting, it's wonderful to have the opportunity to speak to so many people about Tibetan Mastiffs.
Fortunately, Ramen is an easy-going guy who enjoys the attention.
So on to the meat of the competition!
We had an amazing weekend, with many first-ever experiences.
Ramen was awarded Best of Breed both days. Only one other dog competed, so he has one more point toward his championship title.
We were entered in the Bred-By-Exhibitor and Owner-Handled competitions on Sunday as well as the Open competition both days, which meant we had four opportunities to practice in the working group over the weekend.
As you can imagine, choosing the best four out of 20 or more Best-of-Breeds can be challenging. So generally the group judge will make a "cut" prior to making their final selection for "best" dogs in the group.
On Sunday, Ramen and I made our first group cut ever. We were in the Owner-Handled Working Group. I believe we were the last dog chosen in the cut... but honestly, I don't remember. I was so excited to make the cut!
Owner-Handled means just that. The people at the end of the leads are the registered owners of the dogs they are handling. There is a wide variety of handling experience in this competition, but none of the people have ever been a professional handler.
When the judge made her final selections and chose us as 4th place, I wasn't sure that she was pointing at me. I was hesitant to go to the front. But she clarified and I don't remember a whole lot after that. I do remember her being very complimentary and she spent some time with me the next day, which I greatly appreciate.
We then competed in the regular Working Group. A large percentage of the handlers are professionals and many are top 10 dogs. I was exhausted from the long first day and know I did not exhibit him as well as I could have. However, I was delighted with his performance. It's a long day for canine and human alike, and Ramen performed very well.
Then after a little rest and a quick trip outside, we competed in the Bred-By-Exhibitor Working Group.
In this competition, the people at the end of the leads are the breeder of record for the dog they are handling. The handlers can be professionals and/or owners, but neither is necessary. The judge awarded Ramen a Group 2! Or 2nd place!!
To be chosen from a group of dogs who are being exhibited by the people who bred them is a huge honor... I know that we brought what we feel is the best example of our breeding program. I imagine everyone else did as well.
So we finished out the first day of the show having gone from never making a cut, to being placed in the group twice!! Let's just say I had a hard time sleeping from all of the excitement. :-)
Monday was a quieter day, with only one group competition... and when I couldn't imagine the weekend going any better, we made our first-ever cut in the regular Working Group! It was all I could do to maintain my composure and not squeal with excitement!
After a deep breath on my part, and an exceptional performance on Ramen's part, the judge awarded us with a Working Group 2nd!
As I mentioned above, a large percentage of the handlers in the regular groups are professionals. Many are top professionals and many of the dogs are ranked in the top 10 for their breed. So knowing the quality of dogs in this Working Group and the exceptional handlers, owners, and breeders behind them makes this placement all the more special.
I enjoy the camaraderie with the other handlers.... especially the owner-handlers. I can't express how warmly I was congratulated by so many people I have been competing against (and losing to) for the last several years. :-)
Most of the people I've met in the show dog world are lovely, nice, people who love and care for their dogs at least as much as I do mine.
I appreciate the time that each of our judges spent with us over the weekend as well as the advice and encouragement.
After an amazing weekend playing Show Dog, Ramen relished being back to work. He enjoyed a few laps and a wrestle with his sire and sisters then settled down for a good long nap with his alpaca.