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The Lady is for Showing *
By Michael Pesare

Originally published in the December, 2000 issue of Skye Ways, 
a Canadian Skye publication created and edited by Karin Armstrong
* Title provided by Skye Ways

The Skye Terrier Club of American National Specialty Sweepstakes is always an eagerly anticipated part of the Montgomery Weekend. The Sweepstakes competition is a wonderful opportunity to benchmark your young Skye against the other youngsters coming along and to present your Skye to a knowledgeable audience. Skye breeders and exhibitors view the Sweepstakes as a bit more relaxed opportunity to simply enjoy the exuberant puppies as they make their way around the ring filled with youthful promise.

A sweepstakes competition can be defined as: "a non-regular class, usually offered at specialty shows, which is specifically designed to recognize outstanding young dogs and puppies."  Thus, dogs competing in sweepstakes are not eligible for AKC championship points.

My wife, Maida and I were looking forward to this year's sweepstakes competition because we had just completed a satisfying summer showing our precocious youngster, Sophie (Gleanntan Sonsie Socialite). We have been devoted to Skye Terriers since 1990. In this time, we have finished 10 champions and have bred one litter under our kennel prefix, Sonsie Skye Terriers. We have taken a few of our youngsters to Montgomery for the Sweepstakes competition. In 1995, our Ch. Gleanntan Sonsie Solway Maid went Best Junior in Sweepstakes under breeder/judge Moira Barrass of Scotland.

As many Skye Way readers will attest, the journey from bitch to early socialization to forays into the show ring can be filled with the greatest highs and heartbreaking lows. For Sonsie Skye Terriers, Sophie's young show career has been one of the most enjoyable experiences of our ten year love affair with the breed.

When our close friends and mentors, Ben and Donna Dale (Gleanntan Kennels, Reg.) used our dog, Ch. Gleanntan Great Gatsby ("Fitzy") at stud, we were intrigued by what the outcome might hold. The dam, Ch. Gleanntan Gee Whiz, is the littermate of "Michael" (Ch. Gleanntan Gee Whillikers, who is the #1 Skye Terrier in the United States in breed points and group points - 2000. Since our goal is to preserve and build upon this bloodline, we began to consider the possibility of taking on one of the girls from this 3/4 Gleanntan breeding. Fortunately, the litter contained four bitches and two dogs, all with the strong breed type we hope to carry on in future years.

After the litter was whelped, Maida and I had many opportunities to observe the litter and we were given the extraordinary opportunity to select our "pick" bitch. In recent years, we have graded litters at Gleanntan for our own education and it has been fun to watch the youngsters mature to see how our picks have turned out. Early on, we gravitated towards Sophie based on two attributes: balance and overall soundness. At four months of age, she joined the crew at Sonsie and was named Gleanntan Sonsie Socialite - the breeder's kennel prefix, our kennel name and "Socialite" because of her sweet, outgoing temperament and to carry on the theme of her father, who is named "Great Gatsby" as a tribute to F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel.

To prepare Sophie for the show ring, she received considerable socialization and even attended a few shows where she was cuddled and kissed by puppy-lovers. I also practiced gaiting her in our yard which is nestled among acres of apple trees. Sophie developed a liking for the small apple tree twigs that can be found in nearly every row of trees. With a twig firmly placed in her mouth and head held high, Sophie enjoyed strutting her stuff!

In July, at six months of age, we entered Sophie is her first show for continued socialization and training. Much to our surprise and delight, she went Winners Bitch for a 3 point major. During the months of July and August, we entered her in a few more shows and she accumulated 13 points towards her championship, including three majors. Sophie also achieved a Puppy Group First in a strong puppy field in August and Best Puppy in Match at the Columbia Terrier Association of Maryland's annual match - an event that attracts the top terrier breeders in the Baltimore/Washington area. I attribute Sophie's match success to the twigs that I strategically located in and around the ring at the most opportune times.

At the Montgomery Specialty on October 8, Airedale Terrier breeder/judge Virginia Latham Smith was presented with a field of 8 (3 dogs, 6 bitches with one absent) Skye puppies ranging in age from 8 months to 16 months. She awarded Sophie Best Puppy (under 12 months) in Sweepstakes. Sophie then returned to face the Best Junior in Sweepstakes (12 to 18 months) dog. From the two winners, the judge then selected Sophie Best in Sweepstakes. What was most satisfying for me was the fact that Sophie showed better on this day than she had in all of her previous outings. She was "on" - attentive, animated and loving her time in the ring. And once again, her favorite apple tree twig was offered at times and carefully carried in my pocket at other times!

A couple of weeks after Montgomery, Sophie acquired her final two points to obtain her AKC Championship, thus earning all of her points from the Puppy class. We could never have predicted such a quick start for this pup but have come to admire her qualities and the role she will play in the future of Sonsie Skye Terriers and Gleanntan Kennels.

While Sophie finished rather quickly, she is an exception rather than the rule for our breed. Her confidence and outward view of the world was apparent right from the start and she took to the show ring with ease. I also made sure that I did not ask more of her than she was capable of giving at such a young age. A positive experience every time she went into the ring was of paramount importance. Some puppies are slower to acclimate themselves to the show ring. These Skyes require a more gradual approach with incremental increases in intensity. The ultimate goal is to maintain a positive experience for handler and dog and not let the short-term goal of an individual show supercede the longer term career of the dog.

Perhaps one of the greatest challenges of showing dogs is to develop a rapport with a Skye and an understanding of his/her individual traits so that you can present that dog to its fullest advantage in the show ring. This is especially true with Skye Terriers - you, as handler, must first earn their trust and respect. It is not a given. This foundation is necessary for show career that is enjoyable and successful for you both.

Sophie is now at home resting on her laurels and taking her turn as "bed bug." She will make an occasional appearance in the Specials ring just to be sure that she does not forget the expectations of the show ring. But mostly she will move gracefully from puppyhood to adulthood as a treasured member of the Sonsie clan.

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