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It's chaos for family as they prepare for dog show

February 06, 2000

Champion dogsBy ANDREA BROWN-HURLEY / Staff Writer

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer




SMITHSBURG - Becky Montgomery's life is filled with chaos.

And she loves it.

Montgomery juggles her responsibilities as wife, mother, antiques store owner and breeder of one of the world's finest bloodlines of Weimaraner dogs.

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"Your life totally changes when you devote it to dogs. There's no more sleeping in," said Montgomery, 48.

But she wouldn't change a thing.

"Next to my human family members, the dogs are the love of my life," she said.

Montgomery and her husband, Carl, are preparing to move from their 18th-century log home in Smithsburg to a Sharpsburg farm that will provide more room for their pets.

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Their days are busier than ever, yet the couple's hectic schedule is anchored by anticipation.

One of their canines, AKC Champion Reiteralms' Addicted to Chaos, will compete Feb. 14-15 in the country's top dog show at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Addicted to Chaos, who Montgomery calls "Sadie" after the vintage Mercedes-Benz she purchased right after the dog was born, is now ranked seventh in the country.

To be termed a champion in the dog show circuit, pups must earn a certain number of points in both major and minor shows. It usually takes about 1 1/2 years to become a champion, and champion dogs can then only compete against other champions, Montgomery said.

Addicted to Chaos earned 19 "Best of Breed" titles and 484 breed points - which are based upon the number of same-breed dogs competing at each show - during the six months that she competed in 1999. She achieved her champion status in a six-show winning streak within a five-week period, Montgomery said.

Her canine has trounced the country's best dogs in several competitions, and gained national recognition for her placements at big tournaments.

The sleek winner's picture is plastered across the pages of the many national dog trade magazines that Montgomery keeps on hand, and Addicted to Chaos boasts a cheering section at many of the shows in which she competes, her owner said.

"She's kind of famous," Montgomery said. "People in the dog world have their favorites, too."

But Sadie doesn't appear to have let her fame go to her head.

The poised pooch romped in the snow with her mother, Getchie, sister, Heidi, and newest chum, Chessie, before snoozing with her canine comrades in front of the woodstove.

When Montgomery decided a decade ago to become a breeder, she searched for a large, energetic yet laid-back dog that would be equally suited to family life and the show circuit.

Weimaraners fit the bill, she said.

Montgomery struck up a friendship with renowned Weimaraner expert Virginia Alexander, who wrote "Weimaraner Ways," and started her bloodline with the pick of Alexander's litter.

"Basically, we're into producing the best quality of dog we can produce," Montgomery said. "It's all about quality, not quantity."

Female dogs are bred no more than three times during their lifetimes, she said.

Montgomery, who owns The Antique and Auction Connection near Boonsboro, dotes on her litters.

She feeds them only Iams dog food- which she believes creates "fat little puppies" - takes them to obedience classes and trains them to "show stack" by the time the puppies are 8 weeks old.

Show stacking is the statue-like stance competing dogs take to display their physical assets, or conformation.

Conformation standards include a breed's optimum size, coloration, coat length and muscle tone. Judges base dog show scores in part on how well an individual dog fits its breed's conformation standards.

"They're checking from the tip of the nose to the end of the tail," Montgomery said.

She puts her litters through conformation classes, where the animals learn how to present themselves and gain skills for competition.

The dedicated owner also takes her canines to the Sharpsburg farm, where they learn such field skills as pointing and retrieving.

"It's important that they run, play and retrieve to keep up their muscle tone," Montgomery said. "You don't want a bunch of couch potatoes."

Showing dogs with good conformation, floor and field skills allows the canines to excel to their full potential. For many breeders, the dog show circuit "goes with the territory," Montgomery said.

"You enter your dog in dog shows to promote your dog line and promote your individual dog," she said. "You don't do it for the money. It's recognition for the owner and the breed."

Raising show dogs is an expensive hobby with ribbons and recognition as the payoff.

In addition to food and medical costs, dog shows require entry fees and travel expenses. Advertising poses the greatest financial burden, but it's important for the show dog to have the competitive edge that advertising provides, Montgomery said.

"You need to let judges know that your dog is a winner," she said.

Like many owners, Montgomery also employs a professional handler, Lynn Baker of Baltimore, to show her dogs.

"She's Sadie's handler and her best friend," said Montgomery, who takes her pet to Baker on the Thursday before a weekend show and picks the dog up on Monday.

Addicted to Chaos is "not just a show dog," Montgomery said. "Sadie's a family dog, too."

Despite the time and money involved in her hobby, Montgomery said there's no way she'd rather spend her time.

She said she's established friendships with "some of the most wonderful, diverse people you've ever met" on the dog show circuit, and relishes the unconditional love her pets provide.

"I will drop dead doing dogs," she said.

The Westminster Kennel Club Show at Madison Square Garden will be nationally televised on the USA cable network. Interested people can follow Addicted to Chaos' progress at the club's Internet site.

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