My very favorite part of this is spending an entire week with hundreds of other people who all think that living with giant dogs is perfectly normal. You never once hear witticisms like "Gotta saddle for that thing?"
It's part dog show, part exhibition, part pomp & pageantry, part reunion (seeing friends from other parts of the country that you only see at the National).
It's fun and sometimes breathtaking and sometimes sad and often hilarious and very tiring!
Our kids did GREAT!!
They all made the cut or placed in their classes - but more importantly they handled the whole thing very well. This was by far the longest trip any of them have made and they all traveled well and seemed to enjoy the whole experience. We were on the 9th floor in our hotel so there were a lot of elevator rides every day and other new things. They became quite accustomed to hearing someone shriek when the elevator doors opened - you learn quickly to not let the dog charge out of the elevator when the doors open or you'll give the housekeeping staff heart attacks.
And they ATE!! I feed a raw diet to my dogs - I'll talk about this more in a future post. But just before we left for the National, Gus and his brother Teddy both went through a growth spurt and were looking a little thin. Not unhealthy, but you obviously want your dogs looking their best for something like your National. They were eating well so I fed them a LOT and by the end of the week they'd each put on a few pounds and looked great. This is one of the things I love about a raw diet - what goes in the dog, stays in the dog. The boys were eating probably 5 or 6 lbs of meat a day EACH and yet when it came time to walk them, you could pick up the poop with one hand in a baggie easily.
Here are some photos from the National - these were taken by our dear friends Chantel & Stacey Johnson, Mary Ann Land or Zeli Schulte.
This was the logo and theme for the 2006 National. I love this logo.
This is Ronnie with our girl Topper:
Ronnie and Topper's brother Gus - he's always wagging his tail. Gus, that is - not Ronnie!
Ronnie with their brother Teddy. It may look like Teddy is getting a lecture, but Ronnie is just getting him to focus his attention.
Here are a couple more pictures of Our Boy Teddy:
Here's their brother Keeper with Chantel - he placed third in the huge 12-15 month Futurity class!
The classes at the National can be QUITE large:
Keeping the dogs cool - the square cloths are chamois that when soaked in cold water will stay cold for a long time. Many show dogs learn to drink out of spray bottles - that's what the dog closest to the camera is doing. It's an easy way for the handler to have and carry water at ringside for the dogs. Misting water on their coats also helps keep them cool. This convention center was climate controlled of course, but it got a little warm in the afternoons.
Here are two GORGEOUS Black Danes. The one on the right is Tiger who belongs to Chantel. I'm not sure who the pretty girl on the left is.
It's not all just about looking good at the National - there are performance events too. We didn't get any shots of Kinsey in Agility (she won her Novice Jumpers class!) but here is the Sit Stay portion of the Novice Obedience class. Chantel's boy Tiger is second in line (second closest to the camera). Kinsey is on the other side of him.
This lovely picture of Tiger during the Down Stay portion of the Novice Obedience class was taken by Zeli Schulte. Tiger finished his Novice Obedience title at the National! But this picture pretty well sums up how we all felt by the end of the week:
If there is a particular breed of dog you love, chances are that the national club for that breed hosts a National Specialty somewhere in the country each year. I highly recommend attending when you can - even if you aren't especially interested in showing there is NO better place to meet people who love and are knowledgeable about your breed! Plus you get to see dogs from all over the country and even the vendors carry supplies and gifts geared toward that breed. The web site for the national club for each breed will have information about the National Specialties.