PT dog named ‘Best of Winners’ in Puyallup show

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A Port Townsend dog owner got to see his puppy sweep the awards for his breed at a recent dog show in Puyallup, scoring just shy of making the national championships.

Odin is a one-and-a-half-year-old Belgian Tervuren, a breed named after the city in Belgium where it originated. He was bred by Michelle Edling, winner of the 2009 American Kennel Club (AKC) Breeder of the Year Award.

Owner Ed Johnson has raised Odin since the dog was 6 weeks old.

Odin had never competed before the AKC Winter Cluster Dog Show, which took place Jan. 13-15 in Puyallup. The competition drew what Johnson estimated to be at least 200 dogs from across the country.

“I thought Odin was too green, but Michelle insisted we enter him,” said Johnson, owner of both The Gardens at Port Townsend and Dogs at the Gardens. “I wanted to wait until the spring to enter him in competitions. I thought he’d be all knees and elbows.”

Because Odin is still young enough to be distracted by the sight of his owner, Johnson needed to stay out of sight while handler Elkins ran the Belgian Tervuren through his paces.

And yet, in spite of a rigorous series of competitions pitting Odin against a field of 18 other Belgian Tervurens from throughout the United States, Odin was named “Best of Winners” for all three days of competitions.

AN UPSET WIN

“‘Best of Winners’ is considered a major win, just short of ‘Best of Breed,’ then ‘Best of Herding Group’ and finally ‘Best of Show,’” Johnson said. “Odin was up against Michelle’s other Terv, Trip, who’s considered the best Belgian Tervuren in the nation.”

Trip ultimately took third place in “Best of Working Group,” while Odin’s three major wins caused what Johnson deemed “quite a sensation” at the show, being that he was an unknown dog in his first outing.

“At first, I wasn’t even sure what happened,” Johnson said. “It was explained to me by other handlers, who came up to congratulate me, that some champion stock dogs will take three years of concentrated showing to become champions, if at all. I had to admit that ‘Mr. Wonky’ did OK.”

Johnson explained that to earn the title of national champion, a dog has to achieve two major wins and 15 points. Odin won three majors and 12 points in one weekend, which put him just three points short of a championship.

If more dogs had been competing in Odin’s breed category, Johnson suspects he would have gotten more points, because that’s how the competition is scored.

In retrospect, though, Johnson isn’t surprised by Odin’s performance, since this Belgian Tervuren’s family line is made up of winners.

“He was a dog-show-quality puppy when we bought him,” Johnson said. “Showmanship is in his genes. It’s like how you buy a racehorse for their bloodline. His parents both placed among the highest in the nation. Belgians are smart dogs anyway, so he’ll pick things up after being taught only once or twice.”

Johnson trains Odin from two to three times a week, approximately a half hour per training session, but “I try not to overload him with training.” Nonetheless, Johnson does take Odin to more formal training once a week at the Family Dog Training Center in Kent.

HOUSE OF CHAMPIONS

“There are people who come up from Oregon to train [at the Family Dog Training Center],” Johnson said. “Between travel, lodging and other expenses, I could very easily be spending $800 a month on this dog. I bought him for $2,000, which was a bargain, but I had credit from other dogs I’d raised.”

Although the Johnson household has had as many as four dogs at a time, it currently has only two, with the other being a 12-year-old mostly retired champion.

“Odin is very much a part of our family,” Johnson said. “We love dogs in general. They give us great happiness. To know the potential of dogs like Odin, and to help them achieve it is very gratifying. It’s a life experience.”

Johnson plans to enter Odin into the Seattle Kennel Club Dog Show, taking place at the CenturyLink Field Event Center in Seattle, March 10-11.

Johnson also plans to have Odin compete in the Peninsula Dog Fanciers’ Club Dog Show, held at the Kitsap Pavilion in Bremerton, March 24-25.

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