And this doggy is headed for nationals

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 11, 2005

In their trek toward dog show supremacy, Meghan Brinkley and her golden retriever Wagoner keep putting their best foot forward.

Actually, in Wagoner’s case, it’s a set of paws.

&uot;I don’t think about anything else but Wagoner (during shows),&uot; said Brinkley, a Nansemond-Suffolk Academy student. &uot;I focus on making him look his best. I don’t look at anything.&uot;

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Their journey began about 18 months ago when Brinkley got Wagoner, two other retrievers and a dachshund from a friend in Fredericksburg. Her family’s Whaleyville home gives the four four-legged friends a close way to get some exercise.

&uot;They’re all pretty good,&uot; said Brinkley, who spends two to three hours three times a week grooming and training her pets. &uot;They have plenty of space to run.&uot;

A large part of the training consists of stacking, in which the dog is placed on a table to get used to standing still. Then Brinkley heads to the backyard.

&uot;I take Wagoner down and back and in a triangle,&uot; she said. &uot;He knows what to do; it’s mainly for me.&uot; Before moving to Suffolk, Wagoner had competed in several shows.

Last October, the training started to pay off; Brinkley and Wagoner won first place in their division at a show at the Virginia Beach Pavilion.

They won again in Golden Retriever Specialty in West Friendship, Md. in March, and in a competition in Chesapeake in April. By winning three events, Brinkley moved from the ranks of novice junior to open senior dog handler. Two weeks ago, they headed to Richmond for a Virginia Kennel Club event.

&uot;The night before, I had to bath him, dry him, and then soak him in water,&uot; said Brinkley, who follows the same drill at all her competitions. &uot;Anything that sticks out has to be trimmed. I poofed up his hair and got everything to stay still.&uot;

Looks aren’t the only thing important to competition judges.

&uot;They look at him head to toe,&uot; Brinkley said. &uot;They look at how he moves, how he responds to the handler, everything. They’re looking at him and they’re looking at you.&uot;

Brinkley and Wagoner will go to national competition in Gettysburg, Penn. in late September. Someday, she hopes to make it to the Westminster Dog Show. Held every April in New York, the event is known as the country’s premier dog showing event.