A recent weekend saw a big four-day cluster in upstate New York – the Wine Country circuit. Our first ever litter of Belgian Tervurens was not quite 7 months old, and five of the pups were making their conformation debuts.

The results from the weekend were an incredible tribute to my daughter’s research in doing the breeding, and to the sire and dam. Our pups took all the points – one 2 pointer and seven 5-point majors. My daughter’s bitch puppy finished her championship in three straight shows – 5 points each time. My dog pup, Doc, took one of the 5-point majors himself.

Obviously we were thrilled and excited over the great showing by our pups – a tribute also to their owner-handlers and to all the upstate New York Terv community who helped hold or handle dogs when needed.

And certainly, I do NOT want to hand away Doc’s major, but a different accomplishment of his that weekend was even better.

The happy public relations puppy, Doc, at 5 months old. Photo courtesy of Deb Eldredge.

On Thursday, I arrived early to walk Doc around the show grounds. He had attended a few shows as a spectator or in the 4-to-6 puppy events, but this was his first “real” competition. He is an outgoing, happy, very friendly pup with plenty of confidence.

As we walked up to our ring, a small bus unloaded a group of special needs teenagers and their teachers. The teens clustered together, looking with open admiration at the stunning dogs walking by them. And the dogs were being walked way around them. Some people were clearly hustling to get to their rings, others didn’t want to take a chance on their many hours of grooming being rumpled by inexperienced spectators.

I looked at their eager faces, took a deep breath and said to Doc, “Hope you are up to this.” I approached the group and said that my puppy was at his first show and that he loved people and would they like to pet him? Huge smiles came out, and the teachers reminded everyone to ask first, then pet gently.

Doc was thrilled. The kids came by one or two at a time, petting him and telling him how handsome he was and that he would win. I told them how he is called Doc after the Bugs Bunny quote, “What’s up, Doc?” They all thought he was great. For his part, Doc behaved beautifully, though he might have wondered why none of these judges checked his bite or his privates!

One girl was so cute. She gave Doc top-quality petting including an ear scratch. Then she turned to her friend and squealed, “I got to pet a SHOW dog!”

After five or 10 minutes, everyone had gotten to pet Doc, and we went on our way. At dinner that night, I’d bet every one of those kids told their parents how cool dog shows and purebred dogs are. And I’d bet their parents mentioned to friends what a great time their kids had at a dog show and how nice purebred dogs are.

In just a few minutes, Doc did more positive PR work for dog shows and purebred dogs than any amount of expensive ads could have done. There are times when we are rushing to our ring, can’t have grooming messed up or have a dog that wouldn’t be comfortable in that type of situation. But, if we all can do it when possible, these one-on-one positive interactions will do more good for our sport than any titles or awards.

Good boy, Doc!