â�?�?Bittersweetâ�?�? adventure awaits Clark family at Westminster show By David Lias
Plain Talk Next week, 11-year-old Tanner Clark, a sixth-grader at Vermillion Middle School, will embark on one of the greatest adventures of his young life. He and Jay, his Shetland sheep dog, will compete in whatâ�?�?s easily dubbed the Super Bowl of dog shows â�?�? the Westminster Kennel Club 2009 Dog Show. Missing will be the physical presence of Tannerâ�?�?s dad, Tim. He will best be able to watch his son at the show in spirit, after a car accident took his life approximately three weeks ago. Timâ�?�?s widow and Tannerâ�?�?s mother, Melanee Clark, said her husband would have wanted them to press on with their plans to travel to the Westminster show. â�?�?I thought about not doing this,â�? she said. â�?�?But I talked with a psychologist, and his (Tannerâ�?�?s) teachers and counselors at school, and it was their recommendation that we move forward and Tanner really wanted to move forward, and I know his dad would have wanted him to move forward. â�?�?This is a big deal for Tanner; heâ�?�?s worked really hard all year to achieve this and I donâ�?�?t want to disappoint him,â�? Melanee said. â�?�?Heâ�?�?s already had a huge disappointment in his life. Itâ�?�?s going to be tough, but weâ�?�?re going to be doing our best.â�? Tanner and Melanee, along with Tannerâ�?�?s Sheltie, Jay, and Timâ�?�?s Papillon, Justice, will leave Vermillion early Thursday morning, and fly from Omaha, NE, to New York City on Friday. They will take part in the 133rd annual Westminster Kennel Club dog show at Madison Square Garden on Monday and Tuesday, Feb. 9 and 10. â�?�?Since Tim wonâ�?�?t be going, Iâ�?�?ll be showing his dog,â�? Melanee said, â�?�?which should be interesting, because I donâ�?�?t usually show that dog. The dog may be freaking out a little bit, and so may I.â�? Only champion dogs are allowed to compete in the Westminster show. â�?�?Itâ�?�?s like the Super Bowl of dog shows; it is the dog show of the year,â�? Melanee said. â�?�?The best of the best are competing there for the ultimate prize, and thatâ�?�?s best in show.â�? Both Tannerâ�?�?s and Timâ�?�?s dogs have competed â�?�? very successfully â�?�? at other dog shows. â�?�?Tannerâ�?�?s dog, Jay, is ranked among the top 25 Shelties in the country this past year,â�? Melanee said. â�?�?Justice, thatâ�?�?s the Papillon â�?�? Tim had ranked him among the top 10 Papillons for the past three years, and in 2008 we retired him halfway through the year and he still finished in the top 25.â�? Jay will spend the flight to New York in the baggage compartment of the airliner, while Justice, because of his small size, will be able to fly in the passenger compartment with Tanner and Melanee. The luggage compartment is heated and pressurized, assuring a comfortable flight for Jay. Only the Papillon breed of dog will show on Saturday. â�?�?The Papillon is companion dog par excellence,â�? according to the Westminster Web site. â�?�?The choice of the French Court in the Reigns of Kings Henri III, Louis XIV and XV (1600s – 1790s), this small, elegant, silky-coated toy dog continues to delight fans throughout Europe, Japan and the Americas. The Papillon excels in conformation and obedience as well as agility and tracking. Intelligent and friendly, the pap is happiest when pleasing.â�? â�?�?The main show is Monday and Tuesday,â�? Melanee said. â�?�?Tanner is entered in two different divisions â�?�? heâ�?�?s entered in the junior showmanship competition in which they just judge the kids on how well they show their dogs. â�?�?In order to qualify for Westminster, Tanner had to win 10 first places in his age division throughout the year,â�? she said. â�?�?Thatâ�?�?s a big deal; the competition is stiff.â�? He will also compete among young men and women from his age all the way up to 18. At Tannerâ�?�?s side will be Jay, his companion for several years now. Shetland sheep dogs, according to information from Westminster, were developed in the Shetland Islands as a hardy working dog, an alert guard dog, and an intelligent, affectionate companion. The Sheltie generally resembles a Collie in miniature. His color can be sable (ranging from light golden brown to a dark mahogany), black and blue merle, with varying amounts of white and/or tan. A Sheltieâ�?�?s most outstanding characteristic is his unique temperament. He has an intense desire to please and an enormous capacity for love and affection. The Sheltie is exceptionally trainable and responsive, characteristics, which make him an ideal companion and an outstanding worker in obedience and agility. Despite years of dog show experience, the Clarks donâ�?�?t quite know what to expect next week. Theyâ�?�?ve never been to the Westminster show. They know they will be in the media spotlight, and will be showing before a live audience of thousands of people. â�?�?There will be about 2,500 dogs that will compete, which is about average for a typical show,â�? Melanee said, â�?�?but the difference is these will all be the top dogs in the country.â�? Tanner will be one of only a likely very few young people who will be showing dogs in the breed competition. Most of the dog handlers in this portion of the show are professional show people or adult dog breeders. â�?�?Itâ�?�?s very unusual to see a child show at this level,â�? Melanee said. But Tanner has been showing Jay for the last four years now. In other words, itâ�?�?s a situation where dog and owner are very familiar with one another. Tanner and Jay have more than just Westminster on their itinerary while they are in New York. Theyâ�?�?ve been invited to appear on The Martha Stewart Show on Wednesday. Melanee said Tanner hopes he may be able to help Martha with a cooking demonstration while heâ�?�?s a guest on her show. The Clarks and their dogs will return home on Thursday. â�?�?Itâ�?�?s a little bit bittersweet,â�? Melanee said. â�?�?Weâ�?�?re excited to go, but on the other hand, weâ�?�?re sad because thereâ�?�?s an emptiness. But weâ�?�?re looking forward to it.â�?