I got great news on Sunday. While at a cat show in Baltimore, I got a phone call from a friend at a dog show. No big deal, except that she told me professional handler Kitty Burke had news for me. At that point, I started crying. You see, handlers only call during the day if they have really good news (or, I assume, really bad news.) In this case, it WAS really good news. My dog Visa had won!. She finished her long sought championship. It was something we had worked at for years. Yes, years.

When Visa was a little puppy, I knew there was something special about her. She would look right into my soul. Her show career started off well. At two years of age, she had twelve of the fifteen points needed to get her championship. Of the fifteen points, two wins have to be what are called major wins under different judges. A major requires  enough males or females entered to earn 3 or more points. That number varies greatly among breeds and changes from year to year. You don’t know if there are going to be enough dogs for a major until after the entries are submitted and counted. Even then, the major may “break” if an entry or two fail to show up on the day of the show.

Labradors are popular in the show ring as well as pets. That translates into higher numbers of dogs being needed for a major. The required numbers change every year. One year, as many as twenty nine other females were needed. You can imagine how hard it was to get that many to show up! Visa was entered in countless shows that she didn’t even go into the ring as the entry wasn’t high enough, or there were no shows while standing by the ring. You see, if it wasn’t a major,  her handler or I would pull her out as one or two point wins would not help her, but would take the points away from another dog that needed it. It was pretty frustrating to get up early, drive to a show and then stand by the ring, only to find out a dog or two didn’t show up.

I have to admit, I got very discouraged. You see, Visa started out showing at six months of age. I showed her and got a number of points on her and then she got a major win when she was on the road with her handler. That last win was FOUR years ago next month. I kept going with the encouragement of other Labrador people who knew Visa and told me she was worth it. I had decided to retire her from the conformation ring at the end of this year. Visa is also a performance competitor and has six titles in that arena, so my plan was to continue in that venue. I hate to give up, but it was looking hopeless. Her handler, Kitty, is retiring from handling at the end of the year, so I decided on one last weekend with her and another later in the month with me.

I got reports from my friends at the dog show that there was a lot of whooping going on when Visa won her class. They have been rooting for us all along. Then, when she won Best of Winners and it was evident she was a champion, her handler hugged the judge and one of my friends outside the ring called me so the handler could tell me the news when she came out of the ring. I got texts and phone calls that afternoon from my dog buds. Thanks to Kitty for never giving up.

When I got that call, it was the culmination of work, perseverance, and, yes, money. Was it worth it? For me, yes. For whatever reason, I felt Visa deserved that title on the front end of her name. She is a great dog. Temperament, health, trainability, athletic ability  and structure in one being. All that in one dog doesn’t come along very often. Champion Canterbury’s Priceless Gem RE BN CD CGC can now go do what she loves best….wallow in the creek.


Photo at top by RoxAnne Franklin