Even a dog with the most humble of backgrounds can grow up to become a grand champion at the Routt County Fair. Lauren Frentress and Emmitt proved that Monday.
Frentress, 14, and her pooch earned a score of 98 from judge Julie Price in the obedience class, and after that, no other tandem could overtake them in the overall points race.
Frentress and Emmitt left Hayden Town Park with the lavender grand champion's ribbon, quite an accomplishment for the owner of a 2-year-old golden/Labrador retriever mix who adopted her championship dog from a cardboard box.
"We went to a football game and there was a sign for free puppies," Frentress said. "My mom said I could have him."
Emmitt is just one of the gang on the Frentress ranch -- Lauren has two other dogs, three cats and a trio of rabbits at home. It remains to be seen if Emmitt can remain the same modest dog from West Routt, now that he has found fame.
Lauren credits her 4-H leader with Emmitt's success in the show ring.
"Jamie Denker is very good at training dogs," Frentress said. "She's taught Emmitt a lot.
"You have to take your time. Dogs will do what they are told if you're nice."
Tyra Monger, 11, and her border collie, Maximillian, had their first experience in the show ring Monday. Tyra is more familiar with showing steers at the county fair. But she received Maximillian as a Christmas gift and began training him through her 4-H group. Max got his name when he went caroling with his new owner during the holidays. Monger was reminded of the plucky little dog who co-starred in "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas," and borrowed the name for her puppy.
Monger observed that dogs such as hers that are bred for herding livestock have strong personality traits that sometimes have to be overcome to succeed at a dog show.
"He thinks a ball is a loose sheep and he tries to herd it," Monger said. "If you throw a ball, he chases it. You can't do that in the show ring."
Jacquelyn Denker, 13, whose Australian shepherd Ginger did well in the showmanship class, agrees about livestock dogs.
"They're really protective," Denker said. "If a judge tries to pet them, they might skirt around. For Ginger, I just have to keep a treat in front of her to make sure she's not keying on the judge."
Frentress said as wonderful as Emmitt is, he still has room for improvement -- particularly in the area of dental hygiene.
"I tried to brush his teeth, but he doesn't like toothpaste," she said.
There are definite signs the relationship between Emmitt and Frentress will survive a case of doggie breath.
"I like to praise him, and he likes to be praised," Frentress said.
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