January 01, 2002 11:00 pm

By T.L. Petersen

Observer Staff Writer

Im terribly proud, Lynne Dixon said of her dog, Tootsie.

Dixon of La Grande was at ringside in Orlando, Fla., last month when Tootsie won Best of Opposite Sex honors at the AKC/Eukanuba American Dog Classic Show.

Think of it, sort of, as winning an Olympic medal in dog showing. Or maybe a national beauty title. Or some other fantastic dream-come-true.

When the judge walked up and pointed to Tootsie, I started screaming, Dixon admits. That was the end of my videotape.

Translated, what happened was that of all the winning pugs at that show, among the top 20 winning pugs last year in the whole country, Dixons Tootsie was chosen the best female pug there.

At a dog show, the judge first chooses the best of all the dogs of a single breed. That dog may be either a male or a female. If a male is chosen Best of Breed, the judge next picks a Best of Opposite Sex, the best female.

Dixon said that Tootsie, also known formally as Ch. LnLs Echo of Freedom, finished behind a male pug from California, a dog that Tootsie has beaten in the past.

Dixon said that Tootsie probably wont be seen on television when the Dec. 12 dog show is shown in February since she didnt notice any cameras filming the pugs, but that isnt the important part for Dixon. Just being invited to participate in the show, she said, was thrilling.

Dixon did say that those watching the televised show will very much enjoy seeing the best-in-show judge, Dorothy Hutchinson.

Hutchinson, Dixon said, is a small older woman who played to the dramatic with the cameras on her. The judges sequined gown was an eye-catching bright red, Dixon said, and she urged on the crowds participation in cheering the top dogs.

While Tootsie already is in training for the coming dog shows at Portlands Rose Garden and other Northwest shows in coming months, Dixon is recalling the thrill of the American Dog Classic and the honors coming Tootsies way.

Just days before heading for Florida, the little La Grande dog won the competition among the Pugs at the Dec. 8 dog show in Portland. Tootsie was chosen Best of Breed, and finished third among all the toy dog winners at the show.

Dixon will be having Tootsies professional dog handler show her in the months ahead while Dixon and her husband, Larry, just attend selected shows.

Shes going to be busy, Dixon says of her little dog, which she said is really a big dog among her breed and a big dog in Dixons heart.