Dog Show Brings Out The Best In Young Handler

Dated: 12/14/2017

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Dog show brings out the best in young handler

As I’m led from a cool peaceful day into a home in a gated community in east Orlando, I am struck by how noisy it is inside. I was expecting some barking, but not quite so much. “Aussies are protectors,” Nancy Ross tells me about her dogs. “They’re a little wary of strangers.”

Ross leads me back to her granddaughter Tori Tarr, who is busy blow-drying one Australian Shepherd while another waits its turn in a nearby cage. I can hear more in other rooms of the house.

Tarr, 15, shows dogs. The high-school student will be presenting two of her five dogs at the American Kennel Club National Championship, going on this weekend at Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center (8 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, $10, Known as Royal Canin for its sponsor, the 17th annual dog show will have more than 8,600 pups competing, making it the largest event of its kind in North America.

In Tarr’s house currently are Bodi (the one she’s grooming), Danara (in the cage), Brem and Veruca (stashed somewhere else in the building) and another dog Tarr is holding for a friend. Another of Tarr’s dogs, Jasper, is out of the house with a handler.

Tarr has been competing in dog shows since she was 11. She does handling work for other show dogs too, though she can’t be considered a handler since she’s a junior. She grooms them and trains them and has learned the different ways of showing.

Image titleAussies, for example, do not get the same treatment as Golden Retrievers. “With the Aussies, you really should show them on a looser lead because they’re a herding breed and their head is supposed to level out,” Tarr says. “Whereas a Golden, they’re supposed to move with their head up, so you hold the lead a little tighter.”

My mind blows as I realize Goldens aren’t just prouder than other dogs.

On top of attending Florida Virtual School and learning to play the violin, guitar and ukulele, she attends shows almost every weekend, averaging more than 40 a year by her estimate. She still loves to show. “I just love to be with my dog no matter if we win or lose,” she says. “And it is nice to go run around the ring in your fancy suit with your dog. I like that part.”

But these animals aren’t just pretty; they’re Tarr’s friends. “They are our pets before they are our show dogs.”

Trevor Fraser - Orlando Sentinel

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Tim Morgan