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My Favorite Things: Grandpop’s Shadow Box

Few certainties exist when it comes to showing dogs. Among the things exhibitors can reliably count on are early morning ring times, broken majors and less than healthy lunch fare.

For those with a quality dog and a willingness to travel far and wide, the odds of competing successfully in the conformation ring do improve. Afternoon ring times and three-course boxed lunches are a welcome relief, and those coveted majors eventually hold. By the time the title “champion” is awarded, dog and handler have become a proven team, and very likely have amassed an impressive collection of ribbons, rosettes and rhinestone tchotchkes.

The really nice trophies are often put on display, whereas the other stuff gets dumped into drawers or packed into scrapbooks. Impossibly tacky trinkets inevitably get recycled at the next silent auction.

When my collection of awards grew to a respectable size, I decided I wanted to celebrate my dog and the road we’d been traveling together. Each rosette and medallion held a special significance. They represented the places we’d been together and the people we’d met along the way. More than just a record of wins, these items connected my dog and me to a community, and I wanted to find a way to honor that legacy.

My solution was to assemble my favorite artifacts together and display them as a single trophy in a shadow box.

I gathered my favorite items and arranged – and rearranged – them on a table until I was happy with the composition. With the final layout complete, I determined the box would need to measure 28 inches wide by 20 inches high, a reasonable size for any wall. I drew up plans and a list of materials needed. All that remained was the fabrication of my memorial. For this I enlisted the help of my grandfather.

Clair Wilt was my mother’s father and a skilled carpenter. He built a woodworking shop in his garage and spent part of every day there. He always liked to have a project in development, and I was only too happy to bring these to him. Over the years, he built guinea pig pens, a rabbit hutch and a chicken coop. He made custom furniture, and he finished basements. He could repair anything that needed fixing, and was never without his hammer and a bottle of Elmer’s Glue-All.

When I brought him my plans for the shadow box, he immediately began searching for just the right pieces of wood to use. He found a 1-by-1 strip of poplar and made two matching frames at the desired dimensions. To one, he attached a plywood back and to the other a 2-inch wide decorative frame. He inserted a sheet of glass behind the frame and connected front and back with a piano hinge along the top. A pair of 4-bar hinges installed on either side allowed the front to stay open, and two pre-drilled holes in the back made installation a snap.

With my grandfather’s work up on the wall, it was time to turn the wooden box into a display. To do this, I cut a piece of foam board to slightly less than the interior dimensions. This I wrapped on one side with a piece of black velvet, securing it with a few dabs of Elmer’s borrowed from my grandfather, of course.

Once the glue was dry, I placed the foam board on a table and positioned each rosette and medallion according to the plan I’d settled on earlier. Tiny pushpins held everything in place, making it easy to reposition, if necessary. With the final commemorative piece securely fastened, the entire display was placed in the frame and held in place by the glass front.

I’ve looked at my shadow box for a long time. Some of the ribbons inside are approaching 30 years old. They’re dusty and faded now, but they still glisten for me. Seeing them takes me back in time, reminding me of the people I’ve come to know as my dog show family. I share the awards with them, just as my grandfather shared his time and talent with me so many years ago.

Written by

Dan Sayers started “in dogs” through a chance encounter with a Springer Spaniel in 1980. A student of dogs ever since, he’s shown Spaniels and Hounds in the conformation ring and breeds Irish Water Spaniels under the Quiet Storm prefix. A dog lover with a passion for the creative arts, Dan has worked as a freelance writer, photographer and illustrator for many years. His feature articles and columns have appeared in Dogs in Review, Dog World and the AKC Gazette, and his design work has appeared in dozens of publications in North America and abroad. An interest in all things “dog” brought Dan to Best In Show Daily, where he gets to work with the most dynamic group of fanciers every day. He lives in Merchantville, New Jersey, with his partner, Rudy Raya, Irish Water Spaniel, Kurre, and the memory of Oscar, a once-in-a-lifetime Sussex Spaniel.
  • Pilar March 27, 2012 at 1:17 PM

    What a lovely story about building a shadowbox of win mementos. This story put a smile on my face hearing about the joy your grandfather had in helping you build it. That, in and of itself, is a shadowbox of memories both seen and remembered.

    Thanks, Dan, for sharing this with all of us.

  • Carla Viggiano March 27, 2012 at 1:55 PM

    Lovely article! Since I make these sort of collages for many clients in the dog show world I can totally understand what significance of this shadowbox and its meaning to its owner/creator. Each item represents a moment, a memory now preserved and hung on the wall, to be savored with each glance. Each of life’s precious memories are of such significance and should be cherished and treasured as such. Thanks for reminding us all of the importance that each moment in time holds.

  • HNR April 10, 2012 at 10:40 PM

    what a lovely display of beautiful memories . May you be bless with many more.

  • Beyza May 14, 2012 at 9:14 AM

    It will depend on the spicfeic Petsmart as it will depend upon the person they have hired as a trainer. I know some Petsmarts who have a person that has some clue and then there are others who use any little person that has some pseudo-‘certification’ they have set up. I personally do not refer to their classes if there is any other reasonable alternative at all. I personally would drive a far distance rather than go to one of their classes but then I realize that obedience classes are a once a week thing and they should be directed at training YOU and not the dog since the training of the dog comes when you take the dog home and then out to other places during the rest of the week on at least a daily basis to train the dog. Check the classes out go and watch and ask about the trainer how many dogs they have trained to what titles and what variety of techniques have they personally used and trained others to use successfully.add: DO NOT just pick up a book’ particularly not Kohler’s and start jerking your dog around. Petsmart is likely not at all useful for serious training but it, again depending on the trainer they hired, better than doing some do it yourself training from some antiquated book using an antiquated and proven overall dileterious methodology. I never recommend, not silly enough to, someone to get a book or dvd or watch a show and train a dog.. you need someone watching you and giving feedback as to what you are doing.

  • Aline May 16, 2012 at 8:44 PM

    obedience classes are usllauy five to six weeks in length , and cost between $ 125 dollars to $180. Look for a trainer that uses positive reinforce training methods in teaching dog training Private lesson may cost you as much as $50 per session , which last for one hour. Group less ions are usllauy one hour. The best time to start training a dog is when he/she is 6 months old. En roll your dog in puppy classes, and than in the beginning dog training class and than in the immediate and later on in the advance class . Each level takes 5 or 6 weeks to complete. Many dogs if they start early enough get to the immediate level when they are four months old. There are some basic dog training techniques like , food luring to get you dog to focus on you that you can do on your own. If you find a dog training class in your area , you can go there and ask the trainer if you can sit -in on one of his/her classes to see if it fits your needs This will give you a chance to evaluate the class , ask questions, and do not be shy about asking the trainer about his/her experience and references. Good luck

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