SOUTH ROCKWOOD – Jean Smith never thought she would become a dog breeder or trainer, but 35 years later she is still in competition and won many titles.
Smith, of South Rockwood, and his 2-year-old pointer, Lacey, last month won the American Kennel Club National Championship dog show in Orlando, Florida. The couple received the title of best owner / handler and best of breed for pointers.
“I thought I was going to pass out when he (the judge) pointed at me,” Smith said. “It’s really difficult; they’re the dogs of the whole nation and they’re in the top 10. I was like, I’m just here to put on a good show and show off my dog and just make him look great. I was just happy that I got into the top 10 so when he pointed at me and pulled me out I was shocked, I think I started to cry.
Smith and Lacey worked hard all year for the chance to participate in the National Show. By participating in numerous competitions throughout the year, they have qualified for a top 10 spot in the country, making them eligible to compete for the national title.
“Now we’re starting over for next year,” said Smith, who will be competing again with Lacey in just two weeks.
Most show dogs start participating in puppy shows at just 4 to 6 months old, but due to COVID closures Lacey was unable to start her career until she was one year old.
“We call her the COVID baby because she was born in November and then COVID started. I was just starting to get her out and try to train her, ”Smith said. “She would have gone to puppy games, but she missed it all because it was all closed, so she started later… but made up for lost time.”
Lacey’s parents both hold the title of Grand Champion, which is the highest rank that can be achieved. Smith owns his dam, Shelby, who was raised with another Grand Champion scorer, Jerome of Columbia. When Smith first saw Jerome at a dog show, she knew she wanted her dog to mate with him.
“Its owner is from Colombia, so we kind of have a language barrier,” Smith said.
But she explained that her friend who teaches Spanish was in the competition and translated for the couple who then decided to breed their dogs. Smith was shocked when she learned that Shelby was only pregnant with one puppy, a rare event known as the Singleton puppy.
“I was hoping for a litter of puppies… we had an ultrasound on her mother when she would have been 28 days old and all you could see was this little dog peanut,” Smith said. “She ended up being a great puppy and a great show dog. But from that start everything has been a challenge.
Smith has been breeding and showing pointers for 35 years. Although she had always loved the breed, she never thought of raising them on her own or participating in shows until she mourned the loss of her father. A friend told her that she knew a family who were looking for a new home for their show dog that they were planning to retire. Smith agreed to take it without knowing the breed or even seeing the dog. She organized a meeting to claim the dog at a dog show in Detroit.
“So we went there and it was a liver and white Pointer named Tyrone and it had been a month to the day since my dad passed,” Smith said. “It just changed my life. I had no idea to show before that… but I started to show him.
Smith said a decision was life changing and helped fuel a passion for 35+ years.
“I started showing it to her little by little and got hooked,” she said. “I was so depressed over my father’s passing that I couldn’t even get out of bed and this dog just got me out of bed and it became my whole world.”