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Beagles catch championships

October 08, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - Berkeley County now is home to two world championship-winning rabbit beagles.

The United Kennel Club, the world's largest performance dog registry, awarded two of the top six World Show Bench Championship awards for 2006 to Martinsburg-area residents William and Deidra Ashcraft and their dogs, Czomba's Grandriver First "Lady" and Rebellious "Chelsy" From Sundown.

"A lot of people would love to have one in their lifetime," said Todd Morgan, director of Beagle Field Operations for the UKC.

A 4-year-old female with a blended coat of black, tan and white hair, Lady chewed playfully on a plush toy rabbit last week as William Ashcraft revealed how his dog, already competing as a grand champion, finished second to the "Overall Beagle World Show Champion," which happened to be a male dog this year.

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Lady was recognized as the top female, or "Opposite Sex," among grand champion dogs by the UKC, the second-oldest all-breed registry in the United States.

The playful canine, affectionately known as "Hoover" by the family, also is leading the year-long race to be named the UKC's "Total Dog" for 2006, Morgan said. The honor is decided through the tallying of points collected at hunts and shows throughout the year.

The dogs all have to hunt and pursue rabbits.

"They have to prove themselves in the field before they can be shown," Ashcraft said.

He admitted Lady had faults in her physical structure, but declined to say what they are.

"I know what they are, and in my opinion, they are very hard to find," he said.

Without being asked, Morgan said he wouldn't comment, either.

"You don't speak bad of another man's dog," Morgan said. The dogs all have to hunt and pursue rabbits.

The Ashcrafts' grand champion is a litter mate of last year's champion, and Chelsy is a daughter of the 2005 winner, and was named the UKC's top registered female, Morgan said.

The accomplishment is even more remarkable considering the Ashcrafts are newcomers to the sport of competitive hunting and showing of widely recognized breeds, Morgan said.

Growing up in Clarksburg, W.Va., William Ashcraft, 34, said his father raised beagles, but not for competitive purposes.

"I did a lot of rabbit hunting when I was little," said Ashcraft, a government contractor.

Since relocating to the Eastern Panhandle about 10 years ago because of his job, Ashcraft said he wanted beagles again, but didn't start showing Lady until April.

Ashcraft's wife said her husband's interest in competitive showing and hunting has become addicting, and now the whole family is into it, including the couple's daughters, Brianna, 5, and Katelyn, 7. Chelsy was purchased as a puppy for the girls, and the dogs still are considered family pets, she said.

"They're very friendly (and) good with kids," she said.

Lady's award-winning ways could not have been possible without dozens of road trips, and Ashcraft expects to make several more before the end of the year.

"Family and friends - I could have never done this without their support," Ashcroft said.

"It was kind of fun at the beginning," Deidra Ashcraft said of the trophies they have won. "And then it was like - where are we going to put all of these."

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