Last Update: 12/17/2012 4:01:00 PM
German wirehaired pointer named winningest dog in the country after victory in Allentown
Oakley acted like a winner even before he stepped into the ring Sunday at Agri-Plex at the Allentown Fairgrounds during the Delaware Water Gap Kennel Club conformation show.
While other dogs sat at their handlers' feet or paced, the 6-year-old German wirehaired pointer shook out his fur and arched his back, tail pointing and ears straight up. When he got into the ring, he paraded along the path and then squared his body into a perfect pose, scooping up his first win of the day.
"He has a real good coat, moves beautifully and has a level reach," said Claire Wisch, Oakley's breeder from Maryland. "He is a show dog."
This weekend, Oakley arrived to the Star of Bethlehem competition in Allentown to see if he is the top dog. With 79 career wins, Oakley entered the competition as the winningest dog in the country for 2012 with one competition left before the year's end.
Oakley was already named Show Dog and Group Dog of the year. Allentown's competition decided whether he had enough points to win All Breed category. The next closest competitor, an English springer spaniel, was competing in Ohio.
His handler, Phil Booth of Michigan, already had the math worked out. The only way Oakley could lose the title is if his spaniel competitor wins the Ohio show and he loses the Allentown show. Oakley has enough points to win if they both lose or both win their competitions.
"This is quite the story," said Elaine Lessig, president of the Delaware Water Gap Kennel Club. "It's very competitive."
She said 1,700 dogs registered for the two-day competition sponsored by Lehigh Valley and Delaware Water Gap kennel clubs. From large great Danes to tiny Russell terriers, dogs milled around the 11 rings inside the Agri-Plex from 8:30 a.m. to well after 5 p.m.
Some walked their dogs outside to take off the edge on their nerves or draped blankets over their cages so they could get a little rest before the spotlight. When it was showtime, handlers primped their dogs, teasing out a collie's coat and spraying water on a chow chow's fur.
But buzz about Oakley, grouped in the sporting breed, was all over the competition. Linda Krepack, a German wirehaired pointer breeder in New Tripoli, said the breeders are a pretty close-knit community and heard of Oakley. She knew her 2½-year-old Zilla couldn't beat with Oakley, but Zilla has to start somewhere in a different class competition.
"Oh my, that dog is very good," Krepack said of Oakley.
So, what makes Oakley so good?
Booth pointed his attractive coloring, a liver roan that looks like a salt-and-pepper coat with a brown face. He also needs little direction to make perfect poses. While some handlers must position the dog's feet, Oakley seems like he wants to preen in front of the judges.
Booth, who has 30 years in the business, likened his handling style to how you would care for toddlers. They have so much energy and caregivers must redirect that energy to do good things. Instead of throwing a toy across the room, throw a baseball into a mitt and play catch. It's the same way with dogs. The more they want to pose, the more energy they exhibit to the judges.
It also helps, Booth said, that Oakley travels well. Flying from competition to competition can stress some dogs too much to compete. But Oakley usually just chills out for the ride, one time sleeping with his feet straight up after the plane had landed.
"He was born to be a show dog," Booth said.
And, by the end of the day, it was official. He snapped up the Star of Bethlehem's Best of Show award, making him All Breed of the year.
But don't expect Oakley to retire just yet. He still might have some left in him when he competes in February at the famed Westminster Dog Show.