Ward, dog compete at WestminsterAurora wins Best of Opposite at show
Her official name is National Best in Specialty Show Champion Rainwaters Valhallas Northern Lights Junior Hunter.
But you can call her Aurora.
Aurora is a Chesapeake Bay Retriever owned by Fairfield resident Shawn Ward. Ward currently owns, trains and shows three of these dogs, but Aurora has won the most recognition. On Feb. 11, Ward and Aurora competed at the 138th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
She won Best of Opposite in the Best of Breed competition. A male won for best overall Chesapeake Bay Retriever, but best of opposite means she was awarded best female.
Ward, 40, took up this hobby after returning from military service in Afghanistan. He was really just looking for a hunting dog, but he came to find out Chesapeakes are multitalented.
“Showing them is just a side thing,” Ward said. “I just did that because of their pedigree. They have a lineage of being show champions.”
Aurora had success right out the gate. Many things have to be perfect for a dog to win at competitions such as Westminster. For Chesapeake Bay retrievers, the fur coat can’t be too curly or wavy. The tail cannot curl upwards. The dog cannot be missing very many teeth. Everything from a dog’s proportions to the way it walks are calculated and scrutinized.
“I just wanted to go out and do a hunt test,” Ward said. “But a couple ladies who I show Chesapeakes with said we should do the nationals in Colorado. So I started to research it.”
Ward found there was something called the Triple Crown, where if your dog places in three separate events it earns a plaque. Ward and his dogs set off to Colorado for the American Chesapeake Nationals in October with that in mind.
He was just hoping to get a green award of merit, which means the judge liked the dog but it wasn’t up to winning standards. Ward’s male Chesapeake Ruger won the hunting class. Aurora won the whole competition. She beat out more than 90 other dogs to earn the top spot.
After her national win, Ward took Aurora to three competitions (in Des Moines, Lake St. Louis, and St. Joseph) during January just to get her ready for Westminster.
“It was really just to get us back out there and get us comfortable,” Ward said.
Aurora surely has more victories coming in the near future. Ward plans on trying to get her a competition every month. He has Labradors as well, and as a lover of dogs, he doesn’t understand why someone wouldn’t want a furry companion.
“After I had my first dog, and taught it obedience and everything, I just don’t know why people wouldn’t want at least an obedient dog,” Ward said. “It’s so nice.”