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.