FAIRFIELD — Shawn Ward, of Fairfield, bought a Chesapeake Bay Retriever puppy with the intent to use her as a hunting dog. But on Feb. 11, the pair found themselves in New York City to participate in what is arguably the most prestigious dog show in the world, The Westminster.
“It all really started when she was a puppy. I finished her show championship, and then I went on to test training with her,” Ward said. “I got her for hunt tests and hunting, but she turned out to be a really nice show dog, so I started working her in the show ring.”
The 2-year-old retriever is officially named CH Rainwaters Valhallas Northern Lights JH, but is lovingly handled under the name Aurora. Ward said he just planned to use her for hunting and hunt test, but she proved to be an exceptional dog and he wanted to see what she was capable of.
“When I got out of the military, I decided to go out to the American Chesapeake Nationals in Colorado in October. Aurora won the National Best in Specialty Show over about 90 other Chesapeakes. With that win came the invitation to Westminster in New York in February,” Ward said.
To prepare for the show, Ward had traveled in Iowa and Missouri to show Aurora at various competitions. She won Best of Show at all of them. The success of this pair certainly foreshadowed what would come for them at Westminster: more success.
Aurora was awarded Best of Opposite in the Best of Breed competition. For each breed competition, only one dog can win, so only a male or a female will be awarded. In this case a male, Hudson, won Best of Breed and moved on to compete in the sporting group competition. Aurora being awarded Best of Opposite showed that she was able to take the spotlight as the best female chesapeake at the show.
“That was a big experience, a big city, and a chance to see a lot of the top dogs in the nation,” Ward said. “I was fortunate to be awarded the Best of Opposite with her.”
Ward believes that this kind of success is attainable to anyone if you do the research and dedicate your time. Understanding the breed that you are interested in is essential to having a successful time in dog showing. Breeders know the breed standards of the specific dog and understand genetic issues and health clearances associated with that breed. Ward says a great way to get your foot in the door is to check out your local dog clubs to meet people who show and handle dogs.
“Just make sure you take your time and research when you are looking for a dog. Don’t let your emotions pick one because it’s a pretty puppy,” Ward said. “This will get you out there showing your dog and having a good time.”