Seven Secrets of Show Dog Success
Part 4: Have a Lot of Money or Know Where to Find It
Michael and Cathy Dugan
I remember a few years ago watching a cute dog win his Group at Westminster. I was particularly interested because of my admiration of the Hollywood celebrity who owned the handsome gent. I casually asked, “What does it cost to show a dog and win that many Best in Shows?” The reply stunned me. The answer was a reputed $750,000.
“How could that be?” I continued. The old hand, a longtime friend of Cathy’s, looked at me kindly as though I were his somewhat dim nephew and explained to me about attending shows across the country every weekend, huge handler contracts, advertising and incidentals like photos, entry fees and bonuses.
But then a dog named Ladybug came along and we pondered the unthinkable: campaigning her to get to the next level. We had watched our dogs compete at Westminster and the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship, not to mention our regional and national specialties, and we had always done well, sometimes winning major prizes. We also watched dogs win Groups and Best in Shows and realized we weren’t quite there yet.
We talked about what it meant to make a large financial and time commitment and explored what it really takes to compete at a whole different level. We knew enough successful owners and professional handlers to develop a plan and goals for Ladybug and decided to try it for a year. After all, it was only money — a lot of money.
Fellow fanciers finished a dog with more than 100 Best in Shows and intimated that they “only” spent about $500,000 for that result. We knew we were not in that league and decided to campaign “on the cheap.”
“Cheap” is a relative term
Ladybug’s first year was spent on the east coast with a competent breeder-handler and she started winning Group placements almost immediately. Within six months she was grabbing Group Firsts and then finally won a Best in Show.
The hook had been set and off we went. In her first year of major competition Ladybug finished as the No. 2 Portuguese Water Dog in the country. The No. 1 PWD, Ch. Pouchcove’s Monkey See Monkey Do, ‘Digit,’ beat Ladybug on the last day of the year at the last show of the year, winning by only 24 breed points for the No. 1 slot.
We had also enjoyed a friendly competition with Milan Lint and Peggy Helming, Digit’s owners, and dined with them in New York at Westminster laughing about how hard we tried to beat each other. Ladybug had a great year, we thought, with 88 Best of Breeds, 41 Group wins, a Best in Show and Best of Opposite at Westminster. The price tag for this fun? Only $80,000 for the year.
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