Joanne Bockhorn, of Marine, is still on cloud nine.
“Westminster is an experience I’ll never forgot — tied for tenth, in a Westminster runoff,” she said in an email. “For me, that is awesome.”
Her dog Vega, a 3 1/2-year-old golden retriever, competed Feb. 15 in the First Annual Obedience Championship at the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City. Vega was one of 150 dogs invited to Westminster’s obedience event. The invitation was based on 2015 OCH (Obedience Championship) points. The first 34 to apply got in. In case you’re wondering, Vega had 205 points acquired from doing well in St. Louis area shows.
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“I knew we didn’t have a perfect run,” Joanne said of the Westminster competition, “but I thought it was close — a few mistakes — mostly my fault.
Westminster is an experience I’ll never forgot — tied for tenth, in a Westminster runoff. For me, that is awesome.
Vega’s owner, Joanne Bockhorn of Marine
“One of his mistakes was on our first halt. Vega corrected himself, but we still lost a point.
“Wow, the nerves were tight for everyone, including the dogs,” she said. “I thought we had a good chance of making the top 10. In the end, two dogs did exceptional in the preliminary round, 12 dogs were all within a couple points of each other, and the other dogs made some big mistakes.”
Joanne and Vega were staged between the overall winner and runnerup.
“The competition was much higher here than at the local shows in the Midwest,” said Joanne, 54, who has two grown children, runs marathons with husband Jeff and works part-time at Kohl’s in Edwardsville.
“An entire row of champions, authors, and experts in the field lined the side of the bleachers where the public was not allowed. Dog after dog went into the ring, until I heard the number 31. That is our number. The nervousness left as we entered the ring and, let me tell you, I was nervous and I knew Vega could sense that, too. The bleachers were full, standing-room only. I think a couple thousand were watching.”
The routine was as challenging as she expected.
“As the other dogs finished, I thought we had a really good chance at top 10. I had an amazing routine ready to go, but then the judge called my number — there was a runoff. Of course, it’s Westminster. Nothing is easy. We made just one little mistake, but that was all it took. We lost the runoff.”
A 3-year-old black Labrador retriever named Heart, owned by Linda Brennan, of Columbia, N.J., won. Contestants ranged from a toy poodle to a Rottweiler.
There had to have been a hundred people or more come up and say what a great job we did.
Vega and the Bockhorns had another moment in the limelight. As they walked through the vendor area looking for a Westminster souvenir, Vega was treated like a celebrity.
“There had to have been a hundred people or more come up and say what a great job we did,” said Joanne. “We’d go two steps and then get stopped and another two steps, and there were people taking pictures.
“In an open area, one person wanted to see a trick. After losing a runoff, I was still in a daze about the whole event. Jeff said, ‘Do the wrap.’ Vega started moving backwards around my body.”
Other tricks followed.
Roll over. Sit up. Dance.
“(We did) the play dead trick where I use my fingers as a gun and shoot,” said Joanne. “He drops dead; a second shot and his tail stops. When I looked up, there was a large crowd, not in the ring, but out of the ring. I’ll never forgot that moment.
“So many people seemed truly interested. I spent an hour sharing what I know with the spectators at Westminster.”
Want to see Vega in action? He will take part in an agility trial on Friday, March 11, at Dog Sports at Kim’s, 1951 Townsley Lane, Caseyville. The trial is Friday through Sunday, said Joanne. The public is invited and it is free to come and watch. The trials usually start about 8 a.m. and go until about 3 p.m.