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Astraís Designated Driver
By Jean Keating

     On May 19, 2002 in Westminster, Maryland, a five-pound Papillon puppy claimed the points as winners dog in the Carrol County Dog Show and made a little history for his breeder/owner. What made this win so remarkable was that it represented the fourth major show won by this young puppy. And with this win, he qualified as an AKC Champion at the tender age of eight and one half months of age. 

     To be eligible to compete in shows sanctioned by the American Kennel Club, a canine must be at least six months old on the day of the event. At beginning shows, young puppies often get their experience and season their skills by competing in the six to nine month puppy classes where the lack of adult coats doesnít hamper their competition against seasoned mature dogs. But winning a puppy class doesnít bring any points toward a championship.

     Show points are based on the number of dogs competing for the win at a given show. Wins at large shows may bring an award of three, four or even five points [the maximum awarded at any show] toward a championship. To qualify as a conformation champion with the AKC, a canine must win at two shows of sufficient size to qualify as a major show [one that justifies an award of at least three points]. Show dogs pursue events in which they can acquire their major wins. 

     Puppy winners must eventually go up against seasoned, mature dogs with adult coats to compete for the points. Which this little charmer did. He won four major shows from the six to nine month puppy class, one of them a five point major, to earn the right to put Champion before his long name of Astraís Designated Driver.

     Just as remarkable as Driverís win, is the fact that his breeder and owner almost decided against his breeding. Not that his credentials arenít exceptional. His sire has too many titles to fit on a line for print: American, Canadian, Honduran, Latin American, and International championships, grand champion of Mexico, and an international Best In Show. Driverís stunning attainment of his championship now qualifies his sire for yet another title, that of a Papillon Club of America Sire of Merit. His dam modestly only claims an American conformation championship. But a previous mating of these two parents in January of 2000 produced another little male that failed to thrive. Driverís full brother, named Winter Wonder because he was born the night of an ice storm, lived only forty days and was memorialized in a story by the same name. Grief over the loss of Winter Wonder almost led to Keating deciding against a repeat breeding. Fortunately, she changed her mind. 

     Winter Wonderís story was published as a part of a pet anthology entitled Pawprints On My Heart which was named a finalist in a national contest sponsored by Dog Writersí Association of America as best dog fiction for 2001. The article is also online at http://www.chesapeakestyle.com/literary/apr02c.html. And now younger brother, Driver, has made showing history for Keating.

     Driverís first appearance as a Champion will be at the Richmond show of the Virginia Kennel Club on Sunday, June 23.

© 2002 Jean Keating All Rights Reserved


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