Editor's note: Burton Goldstein and M.G. are long-time NCTD volunteers.
Marigold returned to Lorraine, and became one of the pack. The breeder was turning breed judge, and ending her breeding program after thirty years. She was placing their remaining dogs. But Marigold was her heart dog, and needed a very special home to be placed in.
One of Marigold’s distant cousins, same grandfather, had gone on to stardom, in obedience, rally, agility, and especially in therapy work. “M.G.” was quite the “poster boy” for the Shih Tzu breed. Lorraine was his proud breeder also. Knowing what Burton had done with M.G., Lorraine wanted the same for her Marigold. To be an active contributor. There is a very famous saying in the dog world ... “A balanced dog has titles on both ends.”
Shellie and Burton were already active in the local breed club, and along with Lorraine, were planning the hosting of their national specialty here in Frederick, Maryland, in 2006. It was at the holiday / planning party at the end of 2005, that Marigold made her first impression on Shellie.
Somehow that connection that Lorraine had wanted, happened. Within a few days, Marigold was living in our house, as a part of our family. She had never seen stairs, grass, nor rain. Breed dog don’t need to be house broken, and their house is a rambler. That was all reversed within the first few minutes in our house. She stood at the top of the stairs, looking down, when M.G. climbed back up the stairs, stood beside her, and climbed down. Marigold figured that if he could do it, so could she. It was raining outside, and when M.G. walked over to the tree and lifted his leg, Marigold got her first exposure to a house broken dog! She also became “Goldie”.
Within weeks Goldie had her C.G.C. (and her T.D.I.). After waiting the required amount of time, she became Delta certified, and has been visiting weekly ever since. Goldie has earned two A.K.C. rally titles, her C.D. obedience title, and her two novice agility titles. But she is a natural when it comes to interfacing with people. She never met anyone (who might possibly have a treat for her ... maybe, maybe) that she didn’t like. Who can resist that cute little “diva”?!?
Goldie is a natural born crowd pleaser.
“Treat ... did anyone say treat?!?”
Burton and M.G. have been visiting with NCTD for over 10 years in many settings. The article below was originally written for a breed magazine and an obedience club. It's a fascinating account of their experience at the All -Star Championship competition.
Article by Burton Goldstein
In the attached picture, you can imagine me thinking, "Do you have any idea how stressful it is to compete in three different venues, seventeen times in the ring?!?". And you can imagine M.G. thinking the exact same thing! But we did, and didn't do too badly.
The All Star "championship" is held every other year. It uses A.K.C. rules, and A.K.C. judges. Dogs have to qualify to be entered. There were 227 dogs from 16 different states, and 8 more dogs from Canada. There were 60 different breeds. There was one Shih Tzu.
Our portion of obedience was tournament style, just as the A.K.C. National Obedience Invitational is held. But at the N.O.I., we did one day, six rings, four exercises per ring, and when we were finished, after seven hours, we had done two complete sets of open exercises, two complete sets of utility exercises, and one set of group stays (96 dogs at the same time, 16 dogs per ring, 6 rings).
At All Star we competed in five rings, seven exercises per round, two sets of stays, over two days. This totaled three complete sets of open exercises and two complete sets of utility exercises. Not only were the judges A.K.C. obedience judges, so were several of their stewards.
While a dog still had to qualify to be entered, they could qualify at the novice level, or open, or utility. The top dogs qualified and competed at the "Super Star Obedience" level. 26 dogs competed at that level. 21 of them had their O.T.Ch. No O.T.Ch., but we competed at that level.
In rally, again dogs had to qualify, and they could compete at the novice level, or advanced, or excellent. The top dogs qualified and competed at the "Super Rally" level. 16 dogs competed at that level. We competed at that level.
In agility, there was only the excellent level. We competed at that level.
There were 13 dogs that competed in both obedience and rally. Only 2 of them were at the super star obedience and super rally levels. One of them was us. There were 4 dogs that competed in both agility and rally. Only 1 of them were at the super rally level, and that was us. There was ONE dog that competed in all three venues, at ANY level, much less the highest of all of the levels, and that was us. 17 times in the ring, in 3 days, all at the highest level of the completion, competing against some of the best dogs in the U.S. and Canada.
The event was held at the York Expo Center. One side of the building had the obedience and rally rings, while the other side had sod laid, and was where the agility was held. In between the competitions, there were games in each of the venues. The "Ultimate Rally Challenge" used every rally sign there is, and stretched out across the entire agility ring. Agility "Tunnelers Game" had 12 tunnels, while the "Weave Pole Challenge" had 60 poles. There were a number of "Obedience Games" (which I didn't get a chance to see).
Three rounds of seven exercises each and one set of group stays on Friday. That wasn't that bad, in comparison. Saturday and Sunday had both rally and agility running on opposite sides of the building, at the same time. Super rally had us running between advanced and excellent. So we were walking three different courses at the same time. Knowing that there could be conflicts, the judges were told to be accommodating. They had us run agility whenever we were available, in between rally competitions. Saturday has us doing two obedience rounds and one set of stays, then concurrently, two agility runs and two rally courses. Sunday was concurrently two agility runs and four rally courses.
Grouping in the various venues were not just small to tall. For example, our group of 26 super star obedience teams, might be from 1 (shortest, we were #2) to 26 (tallest), or might be split in half (14 to 26 and then 1 to 13), or might be split in thirds. Timing our appearance in the ring was challenging, since we were running between rings, and between the two sides of the building.
The host hotel cost a fortune, so we stayed for one-third the price, two miles away. A very nice banquet Friday night, included their big silent auction. Lots of vendors, and the host committee did a great job. We actually had a utility bar jump that we had brought and set up in our hotel room, as well as a baby gating stantion. Shellie worked the entire time, and made lots of new friends from all over the country. I even worked the agility table after we finished on Saturday. Goldie was the glamor girl and once she figured out that she wasn't competing (other than some of the games), she strutted her stuff as she loves doing.
35 exercises in the obedience ring, and 2 sets of stays. M.G. and I had three "brain-farts". On Friday, in round 2, a bad turn to glove three left him facing glove two, and no matter how much I pointed to glove three, he got glove two. 30 points off. In that same rotation, in the signal exercise, he was forging too much as we made the final turn, and too far in front of me to see my stand signal. He sat as I walked by him. 40 points off. Very respectable scores otherwise.
On Saturday, we were delighted and honored to have our friend, Don Levinson, as one of the distinguished judges, for round 4. In the fifth round, M.G. did not do the signals correctly, and we lost 40 points there. Those 110 points in those three errors took us out of the running, and put us in 20th place. But we still beat six others, and the Shih Tzu is not known as the typical obedience dog.
If you know me, you know that we don't do rally. At least we don't practice it, nor really compete in it. Once we originally earned our R.A.E., we might compete once a year, at our national specialty. I had borrowed a set of flip cards with the rally sign descriptions on them. I would take the course map, go to the side someplace, and read the interpretations of what we were supposed to be doing.
Three of the five obedience judges began the rally judges. At the super rally level, we competed under each judge, once for advanced and once for excellent. Six times in the various rally rings. The judges all told me that their rally courses never had as many signs as these courses had. One judge told me that they only hand write their course maps, so they had someone else design their courses, that could produce pretty course maps for the tournament.
We finished with a total deduction of 27, which means that we earned 573 points out of a possible 600, for an average score of 95.5. For not doing rally that seriously, I was delighted to finish in fifth place!
Agility was very different. While the judges were both A.K.C. agility judges, one is now a field representative. The rules were A.K.C., they used two standard courses on Saturday, and a hybrid and a jumpers course on Sunday. A hybrid course is a jumpers with one or two contacts on it. They had the teeter in the middle of the ring, and the course circled around so you used the teeter twice.
There was also a choice we had to make on the hybrid course. We ran obstacles one through ten, and then could go either to eleven, twelve, thirteen, and then fourteen, or we could do a difficult threadal from ten to alternate eleven, then directly to fourteen. Two less obstacles, and thirty feet shorter, but with the larger course's standard course time. On the jumpers course, there were twelve weave poles, six and six. You did six poles, then several jumps, and then another set of six weave poles.
This being a tournament, there were five-point minor deductions (like a refusal or a kicked bar) and ten-point major deductions (like a wrong course). Three-points for each second over standard course time. You were whistled back if you hadn't completed the course properly. The table was in the ring, but never used.
In round 2, M.G. ran past a jump. This was the final jump, obviously in front of the exit gate. We had to start a pin wheel there, and when I called him, I accidently gave him his signal to do a blind cross, which pulled him off the jump. We doubled back and just had a five point deduction and time faults. In round 3, we had to restart a difficult weave pole entry. A long, straight line to the triple in the corner, hard right turn, and he had run past the first pole. I know that we had been under time in our first round, but never had the time to get the standard course times for any of the other rounds. We didn't have the chance to run in our height group, just whenever we were available. We finished in seventh place in eight inches. (First through fifth places were won by some very fast paps.)
The "Ultimate Dog" competition was those competing in both agility and obedience. Of those competing at any of the various levels, we finished 12th overall. The "Super Star" division are those competing in agility and the "Super Star" obedience class. We finished SECOND. In the ultimate, ultimate, those competing in all three sports, at any level, M.G. was the only dog, but there was no official recognition.
This was not just a matter of competing in three sports, at the highest of levels, in a completely different format (that of a tournament), but doing all of it at the same time. Keeping my eleven year old dog cool, rested, and pottied, in between times in the ring, and getting him up for the different "game face" required for each sport, was the biggest challenge. I used an ice water soaked, terry cloth, "cool coat", and a battery operated fan. Not much socializing for him in between, just after each day's rounds.
The weather outside was scorching. The building was surrounded by parking lot, with the few grass spots a distance away. With a minute or two left before the Saturday group stays, I took M.G. out one set of doors to get to some grass. The door had locked behind me. We had to rush around the building to the opposite side, where a door had been propped open all day, but was locked now. We had to continue around to the front door, then back into the back of the building, to the ring where the others competitors were waiting. They knew that we would be there soon, so they held up the stays. Nice.
In obedience, we have earned all of the titles that we can, and realize that an O.T.Ch. is probably not in the future of a Shih Tzu today, even M.G. It was great earning the one O.T.Ch. point that we did, and therefore qualifying that year to represent our breed at the N.O.I. (At that time, we finished in third place in the toy group.) As the A.K.C. introduces new titles, we have earned them. M.G. is the only Shih Tzu to have the new obedience versatility title. Rally is a nice venue and entry point to formal obedience. We have the ultimate title there. In agility, we are midway to our M.A.Ch., but at eleven, might never get there.
So doing this all-in-one tournament was sort of one last challenge, to show that M.G. can do it all, perhaps not the absolute best, but can certainly play with the best, and hold his own. And he can do it in each of the sports, all at the same time. And that ain't bad when you're a Shih Tzu!