Ever since Cooper got his show championship, I’ve continued to show him in one class at one show every year: the Field Dogs class at the IWSCOPS Specialty.
I have never expected him to win Best of Anything, but I did want him to be recognized. He’s one of those relatively rare Irish Water Spaniels who have beautiful conformation, have earned obedience and hunt test titles, and who actually do what they were bred to do: hunt and retrieve birds for the table.
So every summer, I’ve been growing out his hunting coat, keeping it (and him) in good trim, and then begging my friends for grooming help.
This year I lucked out. Both Jayme and Colleen got their scissors and combs out, and turned my roughed-in trim into a beautiful boy.
Cooper rested in his crate while most of the judging went on. We waited while all the boys showed until Winner’s Dog was chosen, and then the girls for Winner’s Bitch. While the veterans showed, I went to get Cooper out of his crate and Russ went and hid (read the previous post to see why). And then it was the Field Dogs turn to strut their stuff.
As usual at IWSCOPS since I’ve been showing, Cooper was the only dog entered in Field Dogs, something that always amazes me. But it means that he got a first prize ribbon and a beautiful medallion. But my second-favorite award for entering this class this year was when the judge turned to the crowd and announced, “This is the only one here who earns his keep.”
Cooper limped a little at first while in the Field Dogs class, having broken a nail just 40 hours before. But then I got the hang of how to support him, and when we entered the ring again for the Best of Breed class, he floated around that ring with me, strong and beautiful, with grace and power.
As expected, he didn’t get Best of Anything. But I knew something was up when, after awarding Best of Breed, Best of Winners, and Best of Opposite, Select Dog, and Select Bitch, the judge looked back and forth between Cooper and a veteran bitch several times, and then told us all to “stay put” while leaving the ring to go talk to the Show Superintendent.
When he came back into the ring a few moments later, he pointed to both the veteran bitch and Cooper, and awarded us both a Judge’s Award of Merit.
I thought my smile would split my face. So many people in and out of the ring turned to smile at me, give us a thumbs up, or clap their hands. They’ve seen me come back many years in a row, show my boy, and leave with a 1st place ribbon for being the only dog in the Field Dogs class. So maybe they realized how much this means to me, this JAM award. Or maybe they don’t.
But I treasure this award — finally someone has really seen my hunting dog pretty boy for the wonderful dog that he is, the one who earns his keep and warms my heart.
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