By T.L. Petersen
Observer Staff Writer
There are some accomplishments in every sport that are generally relegated to the realm of fantasy just barely inside the edge of never-going-to-happen.
Winning an Olympic gold, for example.
Or climbing Mount Everest.
Or in dog showing, winning the Westminster Kennel Club Show or the AKC/Eukanuba American Dog Classic.
Lynn Dixon of La Grande is standing on one of those once-in-a-lifetime edges along side a little dog with a funny face and a winning attitude.
Dixon is the owner and breeder of a Pug female named Ch. LnLs Echo of Freedom, a 3-year-old clown better known around home as Tootsie.
Shes rather special, Dixon says of the little dog of Chinese heritage that was born July 4, 1999, at her La Grande home.
Special in dog showing can mean many things, and for Dixon and Tootsie, it does carry many meanings.
Dog show judges throughout the Northwest and into Utah have decided, time and again, that Tootsie is a winner, choosing her as the best Pug at a number of shows, and frequently one of the best two or three toy dogs of any breed at shows.
Those judges decisions helped Tootsie earn enough points between Jan. 1 and Oct. 10 to make her the 13th highest-ranking Pug in the United States.
And that earned Dixon, her husband, Bob, and Tootsie a special invitation to compete, along with the other top 19 Pugs, in the first AKC/Eukanuba American Dog Classic Dog Show Dec. 12 in Orlando, Fla.
The top 20 dogs of each of 157 American Kennel Club-recognized breeds are being invited to the show, and the dog who comes out best in show will take home $50,000. And the person who bred that winning dog will take home a $25,000 prize.
Three hours of the Dec. 12 dog show will be shown on Animal Planet Feb. 2, Dixon said.
If Tootsie makes the final rounds of the show, though, it wont be the Dixons showing her. They have hired Robert Perry of Redmond, a professional handler, to show her at the American Dog Classic.
The Dixons used to show Tootsie themselves, and helped her win the titles needed for her championship. But showing a champion dog in what are called specials classes is a task for professionals, Dixon said.
She realized it was time to hire a professional to get the best out of Tootsie when she showed the dog and earned a second-place finish and the judge told her later that he couldnt decide between the top two Pugs, so he chose the better handler.
Tootsie, Dixon says, isnt always the easiest dog to show off to a judge.
She likes to not smile at the judge, Dixon said, explaining that when the judge tries to catch the dogs eye for a final look, Tootsie will sometimes get shy and look over her shoulder.
And because Pugs are described in their breed standard as a lot of dog in a little package, that look and that attitude are all-important when judging them.
Dixon calls it that Puggy personality that Tootsie often best displays with a little encouragement from a squeaky toy.
Pugs have a unique personality, Dixon says. She should know, with 14 at home.
Dixon has had a Pug for a companion dog for years, she said, but only got into dog showing about 10 years ago when she went looking for a female to replace her old dog.
She wasnt able to find a purebred, AKC-registered puppy and ended up buying another pet puppy. Then a breeder called to say there was a registered puppy available. Dixon took her.
That puppy got to be about a year old and she was lovely, Dixon remembers. The breeder agreed to let Dixon show her, but then the puppy died. The breeder gave Dixon another puppy, which Dixon showed enough to earn that champion title.
And Dixon was hooked. Another puppy, another championship, and Dixon started to think about breeding her own Pugs.
There were some funny moments along the way to dog-show glory, Dixon admits.
Today she would never drive across Oregon, in the snow, for a one-day show with one dog in Roseburg, she says. And she wouldnt dream, today, of walking in and grabbing a cup of coffee and a roll in the room set aside at a dog show for the judges hospitality room.
She and Bob did that at their first show, she laughs now.
Id gotten a book on showing dogs, Dixon laughs. It was missing a few details of dog-showing, she admits, that caused them just a few faux pas.
One the Dixons didnt make, though, was that showing a dog is a dress-up event. Lynn Dixon jokes that Bob refused to wear a suit to get married in, but before he showed a dog he went out and bought a suit. Now, he has a closet of suits in the motor home, just for showing.
But dog showing is a sport and a hobby with definite boundaries for Dixon. Yes, the Dixons spend about 35 or more weekends a year at dog shows, and yes, they have a recreational vehicle to make the traveling easier, but no, they definitely are not out to produce puppy after puppy.
The only reason to breed AKC dogs, she says firmly, is to make a dog thats slightly better or much better than its parents.
As with other breeders, getting a puppy from Dixon isnt an easy task. Puppies are placed in carefully chosen homes, and a lifetime commitment is made to those who get a puppy.
Tootsie, for example, may someday have puppies, but Dixon isnt ready to think about that yet. First, she has nine more shows before Orlando, and then the big one for the national TV cameras.
Before then, Pug fanciers around the country will be seeing Dixons advertising in breed magazines and dog magazines promoting her kennel name (LnLs) and her Tootsie. Tootsie will not go into the Orlando ring an unknown, if Dixon can help it.
And all the hometown cheers will help, too, for the little fawn dog with the funny black face.