Zeus At The AKC/Eukanuba 2010


It was an amazing day for Misty Mountain Labradors and Gingerbred Labradors on Dec 4, 2010. Our boy GCH CH Gingerbred Celestial Thunder JH, CGC brought some heat to the AKC/Eukanuba National Championships in Long Beach California. Before we get into that story we need to lay some groundwork…   The three shows in Long Beach leading up to the Eukanuba were not kind to Zeus and Tonya Struble (his handler at the Eukanuba) as they were “given the gate” on all three days; although we managed to keep some of our dignity by Zeus winning “Select Dog” two of the days and wrapped up the final points for Zeus’ Grand Championship.  Wiining Best of Breed is always a confidence builder and winning begets winning. Bottom line is we were a little shaken and not expecting much at the Eukanuba. We were hoping for a great showing by Zeus and maybe a Judge’s Award Of Merit (which is a high honor at this show but still not Best of Breed).

Saturday morning breaks and we are still a little glum from the previous three days results. Ah, but this is a dog show and there is always a glimmer of hope! Zeus has managed to dump most of his coat on the trip down to Long Beach and Tonya was reluctant to wash him for fear of losing the rest. I know that Zeus, even on his worst day, has a great top coat and usually more coat underneath than you think. I told Tonya to give him a bath but she was still unsure, thinking I was just an overoptimistic crazy dog owner!

So we went to the Golden ring to watch Tonya and Vegas do their thing. Tonya and Vegas showed great and as the final cuts were made Vegas came out on top and won Best of Breed! There was suddenly a chance for Zeus! I knew that Tonya would be much more confident now that she and Vegas had Best of Breed in the Goldens. Tonya took one look at Zeus and decided to give him a wash. She grabbed a shampoo bottle and ran out of the grooming area with Zeus. Zeus came back clean as a whistle. I decided to clear out so Tonya could get him ready for the big show.

The Labrador Ring

When it came time for the Labradors to show, the ring was four rows deep with spectators. Then the Labradors and their handlers began filing into the ring. I caught my first glimpse of Zeus as he and Tonya entered the ring and my first thought was “wow, is that our Zeus?” He looked fantastic! Tonya had groomed him to perfection and he was acting like a happy puppy in the ring. He and Tonya continued to put on their show and finally got their turn with the judge – Dan Ericsson. Mr Ericsson seemed interested in Zeus from the time he entered the ring and was concentrating heavily on each dog’s movement which is great for Zeus as he is an amazing mover. Tonya and Zeus performed flawlessly for Mr. Ericsson and went to the end of the line after they were done.

After judging all of the dogs Mr. Ericsson began his final cuts. Zeus was second in line behind a dog named “Trouble”. The intensity grew as Mr. Ericsson walked up and down his final placements and pondered his Best of Breed Dog. Tonya was concentrating on the judge and had Zeus stacked perfectly. Suddenly the judge points at Tonya and Zeus the next thing you know we are all celebrating Zeus winning Best of Breed at the 2010 AKC/Eukanuba Championships.

The Sporting Group

After the exciting win in Breed we were left with a dilemma. Tonya was going to show her Golden, Vegas, in The Sporting Group and we needed a handler. Tonya and I discussed some of the top handlers and she said they would do it but only as a favor and would not necessarily have their heart in it. Tonya said she had a secret weapon handler! Her name is Kim Groves, a Canadian professional handler who was representing Canada in the Eukanuba World Challenge with her Bernese Mountain Dog. Tonya took me over to watch Kim handle her dog and within 30 seconds I knew that she was the handler for Zeus! She had an excitement about her that I just knew would get Zeus all fired up! Plus, Zeus has a soft spot for blondes!

When I went back to tell team Zeus (my wife Lorraine, Christine Tye, and a bunch of friends) of our good fortune I was met with skepticism and chants for getting a real Labrador handler as our judge for the Sporting Group was a long time Labrador breeder. I assured them that Kim was the right choice. She had the stuff to do great things with our boy. We left it at that.

We went into the Group areana and were fortunate to view some of the initial Eukanuba World Challenge judging. Fortunately Canada was one of the groups being judged and Kim made the cut. Team Zeus watched and they were impressed by her skills.

As the Sporting Group began we really wanted to see Zeus just have a good time. If we got anything else, that would be a bonus. Zeus tends to end up towards the back of the line in the Sporting Group because Labradors are not as fast moving as some dogs like the Irish Setter. We anxiously waited as finally his turn came up to be judged. I clicked away on my camera and saw Zeus and Kim perform flawlessly for the judge. He stood well for examination and trotted gracefully for the down and back.

The judging had finished viewing all the dogs and now the cut was being made. Many of the dogs in the Group were top 10 sporting dogs. That meant they probably had multiple Best In Shows and were being campaigned and advertised heavily. Zeus was not being campaigned as we are now focusing in his hunting skills so he was nowhere close to the top 10 in All Breed standings. Zeus was definitely an underdog in this crowd. As the judge made his cut he picked most of the big time dogs – Irish Setter, German Wire Haired Pointer, Golden Retriever, Irish Water Spaniel, and a few other dogs I cannot recall. He started down towards Zeus and pulled Zeus and the Brittany Spaniel. I figured he was just filling out his cut but was really glad that Zeus was among them. He then thanked all of the rest of the competitors and started to make his final selections from the cut. He picked the German Wire Haired Pointer first. Then he strolled down towards Zeus, I figured he was going for the Brittany who was a beautiful dog but he chose Zeus! A Group 2 for Zeus! It is high honor for any dog but it was very special for Zeus and all of his supporters as it demonstrated what a truly awesome dog he is!

What an amazing day. Thank you Zeus for letting me be part of it!