A trip to the English Setter National Specialty in Sturbridge, MA and a visit to my mother in Bedford, N.H., June 10, 2002 – June 19, 2002
Photo Gallery: Pictures from Heater's Magnificent Adventure
I can hardly believe it happened.
Thanks to Alaska Airlines new non-stop to Boston and sane dog policy, I took my Heater dog to this year’s English Setter National Specialty in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. At the last minute, although I didn't have a handler lined up, I made the entries that would allow Heater to compete in the show on the web. After all, Heater's condition had improved dramatically with my new "run-the-doggie" (and me!) campaign. And thanks to constant conditioning, my breaking his nervous chewing his rear feathers habit, and the cool northwest weather, his coat never looked better. Not making the entries would close my options. Taking Heater with me to the National was never in doubt as my 90-year-old ailing mother had been craving to meet him for months.
When I got to the National, Paula Dempsey, Heater's breeder, impressed with his condition, helped me line up handlers. It wasn't easy. We found two, Greg McCarthy and Laurel Leonard Schneider that had other dogs to show, but agreed to help on an "as available" basis.
When Heater first went in the ring with Greg, he looked so good, my thoughts were - "Well, he looks great. Maybe, just maybe, he will make a cut or two . . ."
Then the judge looked at Heater. It was obvious from his body language and expression that he really liked him. Heater was stacking and moving beautifully for Greg. Heater moved as if he was floating in the air, moving in slow motion. All the hard work conditioning him paid off; he looked hard and lean like a working sporting dog should. I beamed.
The next cut - and the NEXT !! OH MY !!! Then Laurel picked him up as Greg needed to handle another dog. Laurel moved him freely on a loose leash and kept him stacked holding his lips with a light touch.
Heater was having
a ball while I was slowly dying of a major anxiety attack standing on a chair
Then the judge picked the winners and Heater was there! - He went "Best of Opposite Sex to the Best of Breed!"
At a big specialty, the judge picks the best male (dog) and the best female (bitch). One he puts up as "Best of Breed" and the other as "Best of Opposite Sex to the Best of Breed." This was a huge win.
My own tears of joy rolled to see my Heater - that sweet loving best-bed-dog friend I have ever owned win at that level. This was a lifetime dream come true.
What makes his win even more amazing is that Heater has not been extensively campaigned, didn’t have a regular top show handler with him, and isn't advertised in the big doggie magazines. We were lucky to find two excellent handlers that had other dogs and would try to fit him in. Neither handler had ever taken him into the ring before nor had time to practice with him.
When I bought Heater as an adult from a Heidi Cole in Florida (thank you again, Heidi!), we hoped that the Northwest’s cool weather would help his coat. We may never know what the real reason is, but Heater added tons of lush coat over the time he has been with us. My conditioning program hardened his doggie body. Folks from where he used to be shown said he looked like a different dog.
After the show, we went up to Manchester, NH to see my mother. My mother suffered two cerebral hemorrhages just before I arrived and I was worried she would not live to realize her dream of meeting Heater. For months, she had been looking forward to meeting Heater Dog, keeping his picture in her room in prominent display. After she had the hemorrhages, we were told that the ensuing initial coma was terminal. She had other plans and came out of the coma, albeit in an impaired cognitive state, just as the National ended. When I came to the nursing home, Heater hopped into her bed. She beamed and gazed at his striking beauty. Heater smiled and snorted. She smiled back. He snuggled her and then kissed and licked her face. She beamed and cried tears of joy.
What a great dog. What a gift to have him with me.
All Heater's show wins would be meaningless if he wasn't as beautiful on the inside as he is on the outside. That's what makes him so special to me. He is my best friend and I love him as much as he loves me.
Thanks to all who made this dream come true. Heidi Cole who let me take him, Paula Dempsey who is helping guide me with his show and breeding career, and all the others that have lent me encouragement over the years.
After visiting my mother, while driving in New Hampshire, this magnificent rainbow broke out. (Click on the image to see the entire picture, use browser "Back" button to return.)
Life is good.