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February 22nd, 2012

Dash Nails It. Twice.

L-R: Jeff Duntemann, Dash, Carol Duntemann, Jack

(Photo above courtesy Dr. Kathy Jordan.) We got back from Denver Monday night with a folder full of ribbons and, in the kennel in the back seat, a new Bichon Frise champion: Ch. Jimi's Faster Than Light, better known to most of you as Dash. I also came back with a miserable headcold, so if this (rather late) entry is thin gruel, it's because my head still feels like very thick gruel.

We've gone to the annual Rocky Mountain Cluster Dog Show now for several years. It's the largest AKC event in the mountain west, and consists of four separate dog shows on four consecutive days. This makes it worthwhile for people to travel a fair distance to get there, since for each breed there are four chances to win. With more dogs entered, there are also more chances for the coveted "major win," two of which are necessary for a dog to achieve championship. At smaller shows you can collect conformation points toward championship, but without those two major wins, that last step can't happen. (Dog show rules are complex, and I can't do them justice in a single blog entry.)

It's a big show, and in fact dwarfs the Bichon Frise National Specialty, which we call Bichonicon and attend when it isn't too far. This year the lousy economy reduced attendance from a typical 3,000 dogs to about 2,500--which is still a lot of dogs.

We already have a champ in the house: Aero became a champion in 2010. We've been working on Dash and Jack since then. Dash has been racking up points fairly regularly since we began showing him as a puppy. In fact, he's been "singled out" now for some time, which means that he had more than the required fifteen conformation points, but lacked a second major win to become a champion.

The Rocky Mountain Cluster doesn't always present an opportunity for Bichon Frise majors (which depends on the number of breed dogs entered) but this year it did, for both males and females. The Rocky Mountain Bichon Frise Club was there in force, with a bichon enclave roped off down in the lower-level cattle pens at the National Western Complex, near the junction of I-25 and I-70.

Ch. Jimi's Faster Than Light (Dash) on grooming tableCarol had been working on Dash's coat for some time, having studied under long-time bichon groomers including Jimi Henton here in the Springs, and Lorrie Carlton of Belle Creek Bichons in Plymouth, Michigan. Dash certainly looked about as good as he ever has, and on Friday morning mostly needed fluffing up. Carol did a very good groom job on Jack as well, but Jack has special problems unrelated to his coat, which is superb. Jack is shy, and has a hard time keeping his tail up and over his back (as required by the breed standard) when in the midst of dog show pandemonium. We're working on that, and in fact have made great progress since he came to us in 2009, but when he's in the ring his tail drops.

Carol and I both "handle;" that is, we both usher a dog around the show ring. She typically handles Dash, and I typically handle Jack. On Friday the judge in our ring was the formidable Edd Bivin, an intense and cerebral dog expert who has been an AKC judge since 1961, and regularly chairs the Best In Show panel and provides commentary on the televised Eukanuba National Championship dog shows. (No pressure!) Dash, now two and a half, still has more than a touch of puppy in him, and did not behave as well as we had hoped. Nonetheless, when all the male bichons had marched around the ring for the final review, Edd Bivin pointed at him for the #1 position. Dash had beaten all (male) comers, and nailed his second major. He was a champ.

Dash didn't win Best of Breed that day, an honor taken by Lindsay Van Keuren's bitch Barbie. (Remember that "bitch" is a technical term in the dog realm, and simply means "female.") Several people who watched him suggested that when he matures a little more (and stops squirming like a sixth grader) he will be unstoppable. Carol is considering going on with him to compete for the title of AKC Grand Champion, which is a much tougher climb.

We'll see on that. As for the rest of the show, Dash squirmed his way out of winning on Saturday and Sunday, but again pulled down a major win on Monday, under veteran AKC judge Carl Gomes. So he now has three major wins and 23 points. Since he needs only two majors and fifteen points to be a champion, he has a comfortable margin. Jack looked great but just couldn't keep his tail up, and will need some additional training. We all came home dog-tired and covered with dog hair, not to mention this peculiar brown dust that churns up in the cattle pens. (You can guess where that comes from, keeping in mind that these are not dog pens...)

By the next morning I had come down with a whomping headcold, which is still with me as I write. Doesn't matter. Dash got his championship. The whole Pack got some chicken liver. Carol shared a couple of malted milk balls with me and then ordered me to bed. Dog shows are hard work, and a hairy business. Still, we had more fun than we've had in a good long while.

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