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AKC Dog Shows - "Once more, into the fray..."
This weekend, we begin. Again. Our AKC Registered English Labrador Retriever, Misty Woods Ducks on the Pond (we just call him Duckie), is entered into the Tri-States Kennel Club AKC Dog Show this weekend. We purchased Duckie just over a year ago with high hopes of entering and competing in these types of shows as our children grow and find their own way, and as a way for my wife Tina and I to have a hobby to enjoy together. She loves dogs; I love Labs, and we both enjoy the shows on TV, so it was a natural progression to entering and competing.
If you've read any of my hubs, you might have stumbled across the one regarding English Labs. Well, my wife did a lot of research on the subject before we pulled the trigger and laid out the money for Duckie. He did a great job in the puppy classes, and learned very well the good behavior and stylish looks we needed to compete. Then, it happened. We got a trophy! No, not a show trophy; one of those back end of a cat that you hang on the wall trophies: a cat-ass-trophe. Duckie, in his youthful exuberance, ran into my ladder. It was lying on the ground at the time, and he mistook it for clear air, I guess. Head first, smack between the eyes. He came back to me, wagging his tail, and a slightly dazed look in his eyes, as a large strip of hide between his eyes was peeled back, exposing his skull. A panicked drive to the vet, and 10 to 12 stitches later, and the skin was shaved and in place. Tina kept it smothered in anti-bacterial ointment, and a lot of prayers later, and we took the stitches out. To say I was concerned would be an understatement. We took him to the final class with stitches in, and the doggie professor was all concerns and ouchies. But he passed, and we received our diploma.
Plans were laid for the upcoming year. You know what they say about the best laid plans. Well, we made it to Harrison, Arkansas in January 2012. It was an unofficial show, just a tuneup to get ready for the season. We went through the pre-show class to know what we needed to do during the show. I spoke with the trainer and had her examine Duckie's head. She felt confident that he would be just fine, and as the incident happened in training, so to speak, it would not be held against him.
He did well that day. He won Best of Breed Male, and then Best of Breed Overall over the lady that owned the kennel we bought him from. Special win there; she kept the best looking puppy in the litter, and we beat her! But, because Duckie was from her kennel, she still got kudos for the win. Glad to help!
Then, like that Dolly Parton song, here we go again! In March, Duckie was playing and running during my training with him. He ran into the woods and came back limping a bit one day. A couple of days later, a pouch of something appeared behind his foreleg. It didn't seem to hurt him, but it sure hurt me to look at! It reached tennis ball size, and a trip to the vet confirmed he had created an abscess. He probably ran into a stob or stick and jammed it into his armpit. Over five or six weeks, we drained it three times at the vet, but it came back each time. So, surgery!!!!
The vet opened up the area under his armpit, and repaired the tissue, placing a couple of stitches internally, then some externally. We kept him kenneled for several days before taking him out for sedate walks. After a couple of weeks, we had the stitches removed, and waited. Waited for the fur to re-grow; waited for the skin to heal; waited to see how bad this was going to be. Would he have a limp? Would he have a spot that would be a point against him in the shows? All of our plans for showing fell by the wayside. Now it was play and train and wait.
Early this fall, we went hunting. I had not been bird hunting in years, and so he and I went to the fields. I shot a bit over him, and he displayed the drive and fervor his breed is known for. Tirelessly, he charged over the fields with me, back and forth. He retrieved from the water and fields alike, with no residual issues I could see. So, we signed him up for a show.
Last week, we returned to the puppy class in order to go over some finer points for the ring. When we walked in, everybody turned their heads and looked at us. Silence ruled the room until an "Oooh! Look at him!", followed by, "What a beautiful dog!" We both felt better. He was rusty, as would be expected; but more work over the weekend and this week will see us on our way to the weekend.
We took a trip up to see the vet Friday, and as we walked in there, we were greeted by the same words. My, but that feels good! The vet loves him so much they use a puppy picture of him as their screen saver! One woman asked if he was a Chesapeake Retriever, as he was so burly and with a beautiful block head, but the vet turned to her and said "No, he is pure Lab! That's what a Lab is supposed to look like!" Head, don't get so big you can't make it back out the door! She gave Duckie his booster shots, and we walked back out to the car for the ride home. But I had to love on him, and rub his head and say "Thanks, buddy. You are a good looking Lab, and I love you." I received a welcome slobbery lick and kiss, and away we went.
Well, the wait is almost over. The first show he is ready to participate in is this weekend. Then, depending on how he does, we will go from there. More shows are coming down the pipe in 2013, and hopefully, we will do well. But at this point, all I care about is how much we love him. And how much he loves us. We do want to show him, and we will, but just playing and tossing his dummy around, running with him and our walks provide a tremendous amount of pleasure for the family. As we find out more, and as more happens, we will forward the information to you.