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A boy and his dog

Sunday, June 15, 2003

As far as Caralot's Sir Geoffrey was concerned, Saturday stunk. And not in the good way.

There was the two-hour drive from Pacific, Mo., to Cape Girardeau. Then there was sitting on the balcony at A.C. Brase Arena Building, watching hundreds of other dogs go through their paces below.

And then -- horrors! -- came the grooming.

Forget the stuff other English setters might get to do on a weekend. No freely sniffing other dogs' hindquarters. No running in open fields. No bird hunting.

Instead, Geoffrey stood dejected on a folding table while Will Dede, one of the show's youngest handlers at age 12, went to work on him.

Will's views on the relative merits of dog shows were considerably different from Geoffrey's. For Will, the 88th Southeast Missouri Kennel Club All Breed Dog Show was the best way to spend this Saturday. It was at least as good as gymnastics or ballroom dancing, two other hobbies he'd taken up and loved.

This marked only the second time in Will's yearlong handling career that one of his dogs made it past best of breed into group competition. No other English setters showed up.

The dog had to be perfect.

So first came the spray-on shampoo. Then the blow-drying. Then the straightening iron. And finally, a choking cloud of hairspray to keep everything in place.

Will and Geoffrey stood near the ring with the rest of the sporting group, awaiting the judge's order to step inside. The competition looked fierce. A curly coated black retriever. A sleek Irish setter. A puffed-up blonde cocker spaniel.

Geoffrey, 6, started to drool uncontrollably. Will wiped it away with the sleeve of his navy sport jacket. It was time to get Geoffrey to put on his game face.

"Are you ready, big guy?" Will cooed. "Let's make you happy! Happy boy!"

Geoffrey wagged his tail. If there was one part of a dog show he liked, this was it. Showtime!

He trotted around the ring. He posed. He let the judge straighten his tail and tug on his ears.

The judge called out place numbers, pointing at the winning dogs. "One, two, three, four!"

He didn't point at Geoffrey.

Will was gracious in defeat, smiling at the winning handler and giving nods of recognition to the rest of the competition. He slid off his sport jacket and tie and collected a couple bucks from his mom for the snack bar.

Geoffrey went back into his cage, content to rest his head on his paws and watch the other dogs go by.

It was over for both of them ... until the 89th Southeast Missouri Kennel Club dog show.

hhall@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 121


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