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Budding show dogs get ring experience

February 27, 2005|BY ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY

Atom the puppy took on the grown-up dogs Saturday - and won.

This was an informal "match" rather than a formal "show," so the main rewards were esteem and handler pride, not champion points.

The Mason & Dixon Kennel Club held the match at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center, north of Sharpsburg, for budding show dogs. Other dog activities will be held today.

Ron Webb of Hagerstown, the match chairman, said it was "for practice and for fun, for dogs that are inexperienced - (to) get them some ring time."

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Nearly 160 dogs participated, up at least 30 from last year, he said.

None could outshine Atom, a black Belgian sheepdog.

Kathleen LaDue of Taneytown, Md., brought Atom, who is 10 months old, and Race, who is 7 months old, to Saturday's match.

But, humanly, she could only show one dog at a time, so Race competed against the puppies and Atom moved up to the adult class.

Atom won the adult herding group, advancing to the finals against the other six group winners: a whippet, a Shiba Ino, a papillon, a cairn terrier, an Alaskan malamute and a Labrador retriever.

Adult-dog judge Sue Whaley of Brandywine, Md., liked Atom the best.

"The outline, the silhouette - he had good reach and drive," Whaley explained. "He's balanced."

"The coat is incredible for 10 months," she added.

LaDue was tickled for Atom, whose full name is Signature's Element. Signature is the name LaDue uses as a breeder.

"He's barely been outside my back yard a half a dozen times," she said.

Webb said this could mean a grand future for Atom.

LaDue could attest to that. The Belgian sheepdog she brought to Washington County last year - Signature's Charmed One, or Charm - won best in match. Subsequently, Charm needed only a handful of shows to earn enough points to become a champion.

Many breeds had only one entry on Saturday and many had none, so it didn't mimic a large show.

Also, the handlers' attire was more relaxed - sweatshirts sufficed rather than business suits.

Still, Whaley put each dog and handler through the regular paces, although small dogs were allowed to cut corners as they pranced their lap around the ring.

Bernie, the Lhasa apso, captured the puppy division.

Echo Rummel of Silver Spring, Md., wasn't sure, but she now thinks Bernie is ready for the April show in Harrisburg, Pa. Webb said it will be a big event for many Mason & Dixon breeders and owners.

Bernie, who is 9 months old, got his name from his similarity to a St. Bernard - in appearance, not size - when he was younger, Rummel said.

His formal name is Blazing Saddles.

Rummel said Bernie has taken to the ring better than his sister.

"He's a natural. He has a fabulous attitude," she said.

Rosemary Martino of Millersville, Md., who, as a judge, picked Bernie to represent the nonsporting group, said the Lhasa apso is "primarily a head breed."

She said Bernie had the right proportions, nice movement and a good coat.

As a youngster, Bernie's coat hasn't grown to floor-sweeping length, but he can't be penalized for that.

Martino said that would be like criticizing a 10-year-old boy, "You're good, but you don't have a beard."

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