Top dog: Mattapoisett dog wins sporting category at National Dog Show

Nov 27, 2018

MATTAPOISETT — While most Mattapoisett residents were home or traveling to see family on Thanksgiving, Annie Henshaw was showing her dog Ducky at the National Dog Show, where he won the first place in the sporting group.

Henshaw co-bred the Chesapeake Bay Retriever with her grandmother, Polly Henshaw, and named him both as a nod to the breed’s duck-hunting past and as a reference to the NCIS medical examiner. The dog lives with Polly, while Annie serves as his handler at dog shows.

“We’ve entered him in every show we had time to go to,” said Annie, but usually these shows were smaller, with no cameras.

When it came to the National Dog Show, Annie decided to “just go for fun,” but she admitted that   “it was nerve-wracking with the cameras there. You know that if you mess up there’s no going back.”

Ducky also didn’t like the cameras in test runs backstage. But, “Once he started showing, he was in his zone,” Annie explained. He beat out 56 other Chesapeake Bay Retrievers to represent his breed in the show, and then made the final cut with eight or nine other dogs. Though he did not win Best in Show, his win put him in the running for Best in Show, with only seven dogs out of the more than 2,000 that had entered.

Once they announced Ducky as the winner, Annie started bawling.

“I was actually kind of excited to see myself cry, because I thought it would be funny, but they only showed from my waist down,” Annie said.

When they breed dogs, the Henshaws check them at five or six weeks, and again at eight weeks for the breed characteristics that dog show judges look for.

They noticed that Ducky had these characteristics, and his potential was confirmed when he attained championship status (a dog show status based on points and number of major wins) at only ten months. Usually this status takes much longer for dogs to earn.

Though the judging is based on the dog’s physique, there are also personality characteristics that make Ducky a good show dog.

“He’s the happiest and friendliest dog I’ve ever met,” Annie said, but added that he loves attention too. “Dogs have got to be kind of full of themselves to want to do what Ducky does. He loves when people clap for him in the ring.”

Though he has been the number two Chesapeake Bay Retriever based on the number of points he earned at local dog shows, at nine-years-old, Ducky is also old to be a show dog.

Some dogs start competing in the “veteran” category at seven. But Ducky seems to be hitting his prime just now.

The Henshaws emphasize that many show dogs live very different lives than Ducky does, and are shown by hired handlers. But outside of the shows, Ducky is a very normal dog, “Except Friday, Saturday, Sunday, when we travel and stay in hotels.”

Still, Ducky’s love for the shows is apparent. “If I come over on a random Monday night just to tell [Polly] something, he gets all excited, and runs out to stand by the van, like he thinks we’re going to a show,” Annie explained.

And though Polly has been owning and breeding Chesapeake Bay Retrievers since 1976, she knows that “You get a dog like this once in a lifetime.”