Denali, a Bouvier des Flandres owned by Mary Dougherty of Soldotna, waits patiently while Tabitha Perkovich, a veterinarian at Twin Cities Veterinary Clinic, examines her hips as part of a health certificate requirement. Denali needs the certificate to fly out of state to the sixth annual American Kennel Club/Eukanuba National Championship, held Dec. 2-3, in Long Beach, Calif.
Photo by Joseph Robertia
Two local purebreds will be going nose to nose with nearly 3,000 other canine competitors next week.
It’s all part of the sixth annual American Kennel Club/Eukanuba National Championship held Dec. 2-3 in Long Beach, Calif., an event in which dogs and handlers, from 50 states and 16 countries, will compete for $225,000 in total prize money.
“It’s a very prestigious honor,” said Mary Dougherty, of Soldotna, who will compete in the AKC Agility Invitational portion of the show along with her Bouvier des Flandres named Denali.
Agility is where a handler directs a dog through an obstacle course with the goal to complete the course with a clean run and under the allotted time.
The AKC/Eukanuba championship is one of the largest dog events in the country and Dougherty said part of what made it such an honor is that only the best of the best are asked to attend.
“Only the top five ranked agility dogs in each of the AKC-recognized breeds were invited,” she said.
The dogs are ranked based on points they accumulated at agility trials that took place from July 1, 2005 through June 30, 2006.
Dougherty said it is a real challenge for Alaska competitors to gain enough points to contend with their counterparts from Outside due to fewer opportunities to gain those points.
“It’s particularly tough here in Alaska due to the number of trials we have. In the Lower 48 you could go to a trial every weekend, but we only have a few a year,” she said.
In addition to the hurdles she’s overcome to attend, Dougherty said she is looking forward to the hurdles, weave poles and other obstacles she and Denali will face while there because the event is, in a way, the culmination of there time together.
“She’s my first Bouvier and we learned together. She still loves it, but at 10 she probably doesn’t have many more of these in her, so we’re going to have fun,” she said.
After checking Denali out from head to toe as part of the health certificate requirement for her to fly to the event, veterinarians gave Denali a clean bill of health and said her ticker sounded strong. As to how she kept her canine companion in such good shape after so many years, Dougherty chalked it up living a healthy lifestyle.
“I’ve always kept her active and fairly lean. We do a lot of running, skijoring and we take lots of long walks in the woods,” she said.
While Dougherty’s dog may be approaching the end of her professional career, Garnet Sykes of Kenai has a dog that’s just starting his.
She said her 4-year-old boxer, named Tigger, just finished getting enough points for his championship title in July, and this is what will allow him to compete in the show.
The two will compete in the conformation event, in which a dog is judged against the AKC standards for its particular breed, with a combination of features taken into consideration, such as structural build, gait and coat type.
“Specifically, we’ll be competing in the bred by class (of conformation) which mean you can only compete in the class if you bred the dog and own it,” she said.
“Only the top 25 dogs in each breed with a championship title were invited,” she said.
Skyes added that being included in this group stirred many emotions in her.
“I’m honored, excited and a little nervous,” she said.
Skyes said she will be happy to take part in he event, regardless of where Tigger places.
“I’m going for the experience. There will be a lot of prominent people from the dog world there, so I’m looking forward to looking, learning and asking questions,” she said.
That being said, Sykes said she still hopes her canine companion will do well.
“Hopefully the judges will see that special sparkle in his eye,” she said.
The AKC/Eukanuba National Championship will air live on Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel starting at 8 p.m. (EST) Dec. 2 and 3, while highlights from the agility invitational will not air until Feb. 11.
Joseph Robertia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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