Tristan Singer, 12, took his year-old black Labrador retriever R.J. straight to the puppy pool to cool off Monday after they took a turn in the show ring at the 4-H dog show that kicked off the Routt County Fair.

Tristan Singer, 12, took his year-old black Labrador retriever R.J. straight to the puppy pool to cool off Monday after they took a turn in the show ring at the 4-H dog show that kicked off the Routt County Fair.

Tom Ross: Small dogs make big splash at Routt County Fair in Hayden

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Tom Ross

Tom Ross' column appears in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or tross@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by Tom here.

The 4-H dog show served as the traditional kickoff to the Routt County Fair in Hayden first thing Monday morning, and there were some compelling stories among the pooches in the ring, including one about a mother who tried to carry five-week-old puppies across the highway.

Judge Terena Thomas, of Eagle County, lined 10 dogs and their young owners up in order of the dogs’ sizes with a tall Labradoodle entering the ring first and a tiny pug at the back of the line.

“Did I line you up this way because I like the dogs in front the most?” Thomas asked the group.

“Yes!” one young lady replied promptly. Naturally, she was second in line.

Thomas smiled and said, quite the contrary, she wanted to place the dogs in order of the length of their gait, so that the smaller dogs didn’t feel pressured by the larger dogs trotting across the arena behind them.

On the other hand, Thomas assured the young dog handlers they would be carefully observed the entire time they were in the show ring.

“You’re showing the whole time,” Thomas said. “If I see you talking to Mom, you’re going to get a (points) reduction.”

Cathy Shryock, the dog show superintendent, explained that at this level, the 4-H youngsters are being judged on how well they present the dog to the judge and how well it is groomed, but the dogs themselves are not being judged on how well they conform to the physical characteristics of their breed.

“These are pets and ranch dogs,” Shryock said.

Among the smallest dogs in the novice showmanship class was a short-legged Welsh Corgi named Roxy who was second to last entering the ring and whose presence in the show ring showed true grit.

Owner Robin Richards, of Hayden, had paired 9-year-old Haley Hockaday, whom Richards knew from her years in her daycare, with Roxy.

Roxy was found last spring by Glenna Grandbouche, of the Yampa Valley Canine Connection in Craig.

Grandbouche said she happened to be in Baggs, Wyo., training another dog in the spring of 2012, when she encountered Roxy attempting to carry her first litter of week-old puppies to a safer haven. Unfortunately, she was carrying the pups across Wyoming Highway 789.

Only three of the puppies survived, and the owner was never located, but Grandbouche had room in her rescue center for the purebred Corgis and ultimately placed the entire family of dogs, including the father.

Haley cautioned against underestimating Roxy just because her legs are impossibly short.

“I have her in agility training,” Hockaday said. “She goes really fast through the tunnels.”

Another well-behaved dog, Spanx, the McNab cattle dog, was paired in the show with Mariam Worster, of Steamboat Springs.

Mariam’s parents, Paul and Brady Worster, cannot have a dog where they live, and Shryock not only has leased Spanx to the Worsters, she is spending many hours with Mariam to help her get the best out of Spanx.

“I haven’t trained (Spanx) myself all summer,” Shryock said. “It’s been hard on me. But working with Mariam has been so rewarding,”

Brady Barnett Worster said her daughter loves her turtle, fish and ferret, but the opportunity to work with an intelligent dog has brought out the best in her. Paul Worster said his daughter learns the names of the dogs she meets more readily than she learns the names of the owners.

“She’s always related to any animal,” Barnett Worster said. “She’s always had a way with animals, and they sense it the moment she walks into the room.”

The Routt County Fair is many things to many people, but it is first and foremost about bringing up youngsters to care for animals.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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