‘The Super Bowl’ at dog shows – The Vacaville Reporter

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Since her preschool years, Savannah Perry, a 2014 Vacaville High graduate, has nurtured the dream of competing in what she has described as “the Super Bowl” of dog competitions: the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. .

“It’s been a goal of mine since I was 4,” said Perry, 26, now living in Prineville, Ore., In a recent phone interview, adding that she first watched the show, most likely hypnotized, on television.

And, after years of working with ranchers and attending regional shows in Missouri, Texas, Colorado and Utah, she learned a few weeks ago from Westminster officials that she and her Shepherd A 3.5-year-old Australian male, Mimic, was invited to the first show dog competition January 22-26 in New York City.

Perry, who is studying to be a veterinary technician at Central Oregon Community College near Bend, said his path to Pier 36 competitions and, perhaps, Madison Square Garden, began with obedience competitions.

Originally from Fairfield, she met a dog trainer in Dixon, Francesca Marsh, who owned an Australian Shepherd named Maverick and took Perry under her wing, teaching him “all about dogs, basically.”

“I’ve always wanted to show dogs in confirmatory shows,” Perry added, using the formal term that describes big competitions like Westminster. “There is obedience, agility (competitions). The judges judge the dog’s confirmation.

She started out in competitive dog shows at the age of 12 with Marsh and has since been able to ‘research some of my own clients’.

“I was very lucky to be hired to show their dogs,” said Perry, who by day works as a barista at a Prineville Starbucks.

She has been raising Mimic, a red merle shepherd, with liver and cream speckles, since he was a puppy and currently works for his breeders, who are also professional managers, she said, adding: “From weekend to weekend, I’m there as an assistant to dog shows.

But if Mimic wins the Best of Breed Contest at Pier 36, she’ll then head to Madison Square Garden for the herding group contest with a dog she’s seen born and loved ever since.

“I loved it from day one,” Perry said of Sacramento-born Mimic. “It was a bulldozer. He was the biggest (of the litter) and very soft.

For those unfamiliar with the nuances of competitive dog shows, an obvious question is how does a person train a dog to become a champion?

“Honestly, a big key to being fundamentally successful in the dog world – besides what judges judge on structure (form) and movement (dog’s gait) – is socialization,” Perry explained. “Because you don’t want a dog who’s afraid of judges when they come in.” Or to noises. Or other dogs. You just have to expose these dogs to everything from day one.

Outside of dog shows, Mimic behaves like most other dogs, she said. He eats Purina Pro Plan (a sponsor of the Westminster show) and stays outside most of the time, “just playing with other dogs,” she said. “We go on hikes, go on the treadmill to keep them very active, to build their muscles.”

Yet, from her account, Perry said she knew early on that Mimic was an exceptional dog.

“We watch them from day one,” she said. “But the real assessment happens at eight weeks. You know, you are never promised a show dog. Sometimes they can turn out to be the best in the show, sometimes not the best in the show. ”

But she worked closely with the breeders of Mimic after the eight week mark, and since then has “always watched him,” she said, adding: “He just had something to him. knew he was special.

Perry has worked with other Australian Shepherds, including one she called her recently deceased “dog of heart”, Valor.

“When I lost him, Mimic helped fill that void (of loss),” she recalls. “Valor was very stubborn. To imitate… all he wants is to please, which makes him a great show dog.

What traits make a good show dog?

Being social, the will to please – “That’s a big deal,” said Perry, who moved to Sacramento after high school and moved to Prineville three years ago. “If they don’t have the will to please”, they will cross out during competitions.

She concedes that a lot of people think dog shows “are stupid because all we do is go around in circles.”

But the dogs “are a lot smarter than the general public thinks,” said Perry, who will pack Mimic, placing him “a very expensive creation authorized by the airlines” and fly to Manhattan in late January. “He’s a very good traveler.

Of course, every manager’s dream is to earn the best of the show, she said, but she added, along the way to that goal, arguably a greater reward is the emotional support she receives. , including from her close friend Ashley McClure.

“It’s a lesson in humility and almost overwhelming with all the support I get,” said Perry. “We go thousands of miles to show and run in left-handed circles, basically from early in the morning until late at night.”

Oh, and do you have any grooming tips for Reporter readers?

“A comb is your best friend,” she said. “Paint your dog. It helps new hair to grow and removes dead hair.

Others?

“The rest we don’t share,” Perry said with a laugh.

WATCH IT ONLINE OR ON TV: The 2022 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show will air live on the USA Network from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. on January 24, Eastern Time. It will continue on the CNBC cable channel from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. EST. The dog show lasts three days, from January 24 to 26. Check out local listings.

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